Diary of a “Stay-at-home” dad : Freaky Fridays – weekly blog

6 months ago, I decided to take a bold and impulsive decision of quitting my job without another job in hand. Initially, I thought I would apply to other jobs but as my wife’s delivery date drew closer and closer, I decided to take a “break” from corporate. I had resigned from my current job and applied to a few jobs but secretly, I hoped that I would not get through any of them so that I did not have to join soon. My wife was supportive of this decision. Her only concern was finances and having saved enough for 6 months, I took the decision to be a temporary “stay-at-home” dad.

Now-a-days, sabbaticals and breaks have become common. Different people take it at different points in time. My friends, who were not in recent touch with me, thought I had taken a “sabbatical”. For those who are not aware, a sabbatical ensures you have not lost your job and can rejoin the same organization after the specified duration, in any available role. Most organizations have a sabbatical policy for people who have completed a minimum tenure. When I told a few of them that this was not the case, quite a few of them told me that I was taking a big risk by quitting without a back-up job and a back-up plan. What would I give as a reason for the break for potential employers? What if the gap becomes a problem in me finding another job?

Nonetheless, I moved on as what mattered to me the most was what I was thinking. I was venturing into “unknown” territory. There was no reference point for me – no one in my close circle had taken a paternity break. Maternity breaks have been the norm since ages. In my head, I was clear that I wanted to give all possible support to my wife and help her through a transition. I was not so much worried about the future.

I resigned in January and my wife’s due date was 6th of March originally. But the doctor had told us to be prepared from Feb 20th onwards. Having worked for 9 years, the month of February was a pleasant surprise for me. I felt I was like one of those “retired” Public Sector employees who seem very contented with life and who walk the race of life at their own pace, unlike the younger generation which just keeps running without any idea. The running race starts from school, where we are told class 10 is a big hurdle, then IIT/medicine, then post-graduation, job, marriage and keeps going on and on. The comparisons about how others are doing keep happening and make us run harder and faster. All this stopped for me in February and life was different.

I would get up early, hit the gym for almost two hours, do some house chores , read the newspaper and wrote chapters of my book. For the first time, I had no serious goal to target. I just wanted to enjoy the time till it lasted. The baby had not yet arrived. I would go for walks daily with my wife and just try to not discuss the fact that we would soon be parents. To distract her , I would discuss the chapters of my book , the people in my gym etc. I also did a few online certifications. I started using Instagram more often. Life was good even without a purpose. I started blogging regularly. This was month 1.

On the 27th of February, our little bundle of joy arrived. It finally hit me that I had become a parent. My wife had started preparing herself to be a mom since the time she discovered she was pregnant. For me, the realization dawned only when I held the little one in my arms for the first time. Post that, life started zipping. Quite a few of my friends told me that life would no longer be the same and I would not get time to sleep, would have to let go of a lot of hobbies etc etc. I was a bit apprehensive at hearing all this. But what happened with me was completely different. As I was not working, I had enough time to do a lot of things. I would burp the baby, do a few household chores, watch sitcoms and in my free time, would start writing chapters of my book. The first two months were very hectic, especially for my wife, as the baby would feed every two hours and she would get very tired. But gradually, things improved and she was able to get better sleep.

As far as I was concerned, the break made me try a lot of creative things. I made my first DIY wall clock from  a used iPad cover, wrote the manuscript of my first book, tried working on a couple of whacky ideas ( a Youtube finance video series and an education start-up). The last two ideas didn’t go through as I had to depend on other partners and it didn’t work out. But I became fitter, stronger and much more creative as a person.

As a dad, my primary KRA was to put the baby to sleep every night and play with her during the day. It was fun and I was in a utopian world. I had all the time in the world – to take care of my body, my mind and family. I secretly hoped that I could extend the break for another year or two. Why would I want to let go of the new found freedom of not running a race against time?

But six months later, practicality kicked in. My savings had almost been utilized and there was a burden of an EMI. I had no option but to start working again. The break was not pre-planned and it had to end sooner than later. I joined in an organization two weeks ago and things have changed again.

“Time”, which was in abundance with me  during the break, is now a luxury. I barely get to see my little one. By the time I am back home, she’s asleep. I hardly hit the gym now. I rarely am in a frame of mind to write creatively as most days I come back exhausted. I have not read the newspaper. Weekends fly away with my wife and baby as that’s the only time I get to spend with them. Slowly, I am getting back into the race of life. The future on the work front looks scary –travel, resolving issues, late nights, burn outs , appraisals, lay-offs, promotions. It looks as if the juice is going to be sucked out. I have not had the time to plan out my book launch. My biggest fear is I will stop doing the things I love – writing, reading, gymming, cleaning and playing with the kid. I hope it doesn’t come true. Secretly, I pray to God that all my worst fears do not come true and I continue to create time to do the things I love doing.

Time and tide waits for none. I hope the tide turns in favour of me sooner than later. Hopefully, the next break will not take another 9 years and hopefully, I will find the time to keep writing. One of the songs playing in my head right now is…

“ Suhaana safar aur yeh mausam haseen… humey darr na hum kho na jaaye kahin”

-Jai Hind

RKR – Father’s Day Special Blog

Rasa-kudi Raghuraman ( RKR) in Hindi , loosely translates to Rasam Peene Wala Raghuraman. In my family, RKR was as big as SRK or MSD or SRT or GST. Even before these acronyms became famous, there was a certain gentleman, who had earned the nickname RKR in the 90s for his Rasam drinking abilities.

RKR had earned this nickname because he could drink 2 or 3 glasses of rasam back to back after having eaten a bowl full of rasam rice. He could easily devour a vessel full of rasam single-handedly. For him, drinking a full container of rasam was as easy as Federer winning Wimbledon on grass. The title RKR was bestowed on him after many such conquests and no one in our family has ever close to taking away the record from this gentleman.

And he was doing this routine, day in, day out just like how Sachin would go out to the nets daily. Harsha Bhogle has spoken a lot about talent, born vs acquired and the relentless hours of practice, which differentiates the champions from the ordinary. If Harsha were part of our family and he would see RKR drinking rasam, he would write an essay on talent, consistency and practice looking at this.  RKR, the phenom, has been doing this since childhood, continues to do this daily and he cares a damn about what others think about this quality of his.

RKR is an amazing athlete as well. I did not know of this hidden talent of his. One Sunday, me and RKR were walking out of our aunt’s house. RKR was scared of dogs, like me. As we came out of our aunt’s house, me and RKR saw a white Labrador barking at us. A teenaged boy was holding it. Both me and RKR were scared. We told the boy to hold the dog tightly so that we could walk out to the main road. As soon as RKR said this, I don’t what happened to the boy. The boy was trying to hold the cuff and keep the dog with him but the dog broke away and came at us. Me and RKR looked at each other for a second. We ignored our mind’s rational decision to stay still and instead, decided to listen to our instinct and decided to run and save our life. We equated the dog to a man-eating Royal Bengal tiger and ran for our lives. We didn’t even look at each other. The dog was coming at us. The boy was running behind the dog. Me and RKR were running without looking back. Usain Bolt would have been proud of our running. PT Usha would have nominated us to the Indian athletics team just seeing our 30 second sprint. The gully road led to the main road via a T junction. As me and RKR neared the main road, the road opened into two directions. I ran to the left. I did not see RKR.

As he was not behind/beside me, I assumed he ran to the right. After about 30 seconds more when I was gasping for breath, I stopped. I suddenly realized that I had lost RKR while running and I needed to find him. I started walking briskly to the other side of the T entrance to the main road. For a few minutes, I did not find RKR. I suddenly started panicking. All sorts of weird thoughts started entering my head. What if the Labrador had bit RKR and RKR was hospitalized? What if he had ran and met with an accident?  I was lost in these negative thoughts for a few seconds.

I felt miserable that I had not run holding RKR’s hand. That way at least both of us would have met with the same fate. It is in such situations that one realizes the true value of one’s father. RKR was after all my dad, who was instrumental in bringing me to this world.  Dejected at the entire chain of events, I was cursing the boy who could not hold the Labrador with him. Neither the boy, the dog, nor RKR were anywhere to be seen. I kept walking in the faint hope that I would see RKR coming from the opposite direction.

I had walked a few metres when I reached a cricket ground on my right. On every third Sunday, a league match would be played with players clothed in whites on a green mat. It would resemble a Test Match ground. I was staring at the middle of the pitch through the grilled fence . All sorts of thoughts started wavering in my head.

As a child, my dad had given me everything I had asked for. All my early memories like my first audio cassette – Darr ,my first animation movie – the Lion King ( my dad had promised me that if I came first in class, he would take me to a nice movie), the Sunday visits to the aquarium with him near Hussainsagar lake and many more memories started surfacing. I was kicking myself for being selfish and not looking at where my Dad was running. I was totally annoyed with myself. I dint want to go back home. What would I answer to my Mom, my aunt, my relatives?

As I neared the stands, I heard a familiar voice shouting at me “ Hari …” . It was RKR’s voice. It was such a relief. I was confused as to how did he land up as a spectator in this match, when a few minutes ago, he was running for his life. He seemed to have read my thoughts “I ran so fast and I could hear the dog coming after me, so I decided to climb up the grill and get into the ground so that the dog could not chase me” When both of us came home and narrated this incident, my Mom couldn’t stop laughing.

That incident, funny as it may sound in retrospect, made me realize the value of my dad. A few children are closer to their mothers, while for a few, it’s the other way around. I was and still am momma’s boy. Because my dad used to work and mom was a house-wife, most of my up-bringing was done by her.  My dad may not be the most perfect dad, but I think I am fortunate that he is still with me. Initially, I used to crib a lot about his imperfections and how he could never equal my mother.

We realize the true value of things when those things are no longer with us. When a few of my friends told me that they had lost their parents at a young age, I realized how lucky I was to have both my parents raising me .Thankfully, for me, the realization has come sooner before it’s too late. We all have our imperfections and, in our eagerness, to compare everything and everyone, we forget that each person is unique in their own way and continue to be judgmental.

Now, the wheel has turned full circle and I have become a dad and I can see my child thinking about me in future in the same lines a few years down the line. There are times when the baby is crying loudly and I am deep asleep. Its not that I intend to but it just doesn’t happen.

Becoming a dad also has made me realize the importance of one thing which most of corporate India has neglected – paternity leave. It’s really sad that most of the board members in the corporate world do not consider this as a priority. The situation is worse in some hospitals -where I am told even maternity leave is a luxury, forget paternity leave. There are a few bright spots like Zomato ( which recently announced a 6 month paternity leave for both men and women)  in an otherwise sad scenario . In today’s times, it is impossible to expect a woman to raise a child independently. The first six months of transition for a woman from wife to a mother is extremely difficult and the basic expectation from her is if the husband /dad spends “time”. There are various things organizations can do – something vary basic like paternity leave, to arranging sessions on how to transition to parenthood, career customization for new parents etc.

My dad worked in a PSU, which was pretty much a 9 to 5 job therefore I have a lot of fond childhood memories . In today’s times, someone who comes in at 9 and leaves by 5 is perceived as “not hungry for growth”. People who stay late , work on weekends, take calls post office hours are perceived to be more “hard-working” and rewarded with promotions in a lot of cases. Unless the culture in corporate changes from the top, there’s a grave danger that our future generations of kids may not have as many memories of their childhood with mom and dad, as our generation had. Father’s Day will become another tick-the-box activity. Let’s hope the future changes for the better.

Happy Father’s Day

Jai Hind

Baap Baap Hota Hai : Freaky Fridays weekly blog

Yesterday (27th Feb, 2019) was a Red Letter Day in my historic life. Our little bundle of joy , Miss Aaria Iyer , made a grand entry at 1:16 pm into this world. It was truly historic as it came a day after the Balakot air strikes. My friend Yosha asked me if we are keeping the child’s nickname as BALAKOT. While I loved his creativity, we already had a nickname – PEANUT. My creative wife had decided this name as soon as we figured out she got pregnant. Aaria was the size of a peanut in her first scan. Both me and wife are extremely impatient Indians in general and we like to keep things simple. We did not have the patience to think of another nickname and confuse the world. Our 4 year old niece Aiko had already started calling her Peanu. We were scared of her as she would ask a zillion questions and not stop till we gave a logically satisfying explanation as to why we changed Peanu’s name to Balakot. Both of us were too busy in the labor room since the past few days and if she asked any thing about Balakot, we were scared to say #Idon’tknow .Therefore ,we decided to continue with Peanu. This is a very strategically important decision for our family as it has serious implications on the geo-political climate in our family,relatives ,friends and other neighboring nation states. It would impact macro-economic parameters like inflation (of balloons as all future birthday parties may have a customized “peanut” written on it which increases cost) , cost of stationery purchased (a few pictures of a peanut would need to be pasted in diaries, books etc. when the kid asks what is peanut) , but we decided that it would stay this way come what may!!!

To provide some rock solid support, we had our amazing sister in law “Beat Yesterday Preethy” playing the “Dula” role throughout. A Dula is a mentor, counselor, physiotherapist, masseur, coach all rolled into one who will stand with the pregnant mom and ensure she has physical, mental and emotional support . The Western countries have a professional Dula. Due to tight finances, we decided that Beat Yesterday Preethy would be our makeshift Dula (like how Sehwag was made to open the batting in Tests despite never having played cricket before as an opener).

Like Sehwag, Beat Yesterday Preethy killed it in her new role as a Dula. I strongly feel she should stop doing what she does currently and make this her profession. She works as Director of a startup. We made her work from home.. Or rather work from cradle (cradle = Apollo Cradle). I had the privilege of listening to her superb con calls which she keeps having with her team. Yesterday, in a con call where in she had to give a monthly update to her bosses, she started off with an amazing one-liner.. “Starting with the update on our monthly newsletter..which has not been happening since last few months…

” I couldn’t stop laughing . Why give an update on something which doesn’t happen. These corporate updates I tell you…

Beat Yesterday Preethy has got her name because the sticker on her phone says “Beat Yesterday “. It’s an apt name for her as the look on her face always reads “Beat everybody.. Beat yesterday, beat today, beat Hari, beat Ashwin (husband), beat team, beat bosses “. But..Jo bhi Ho.. The delivery wouldn’t have been as smooth if not for my sister-in-law.

After looking at my sister-in-law’s dedicaton, I decided that I will do whatever it takes to be the best dad ever. One of my biggest weaknesses is I sleep like a log. When I sleep, I literally go deep into the deepest layers of the troposphere, stratosphere and ionosphere. And it’s difficult to wake me up easily. I promised my wife I will not allow this once Peanu is born.

So the first night, Peanu decided to sleep, I confidently told my wife – ” Baby, kuch bhi help chahiye toh bas ek baar mera naam Lena.. I will immediately wake up and help up” Saying this, I slept at 10 pm. In my first dream as a dad, I dreamt of me waking up at the first call, helping out and earning qaabil-e-taareef from my wife.

Suddenly , I woke up. I thought I had a bad dream as I could hear my wife shouting ” Hari !!! Hari !!!” When I woke up, I saw my wife staring at me furiously. There was a pillow lying next to me. The nurse was beside her. I was about to explain my dream to my wife but she cut me off “Hari, all this empty talk of waking up on calling your name won’t do any good if you don’t walk the talk. I called your name 10 times as I wanted the feeding pillow. I have thrown my pillow on your face but that also has had no effect. The nurse got scared that I was shrieking hysterically and she came and offered me the feeding pillow. Shame on you!!!”

I looked at the clock. It was 1.30 am. Sheepishly, a song started playing in my mind

” Dula ka role baap ke bas ki baat nahi,

Baap ka role side actor hi Sahi,

Bacche ki real lifeline maa hi hai,

Kyunki….

baap baap hota hai… baap baap hota hai ”

Jai Hind