Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Indian women, Beauty & Brains

Beauty & Brains is the typical Indian women

Flying power Woman

India has only two women microlight aircraft pilots, both in Bangalore. Audrey Maben and Vinitha Mariappa are a source of inspiration to hundreds of enthusiasts who have the passion and the money to fly in microlight aircrafts.

Audrey Maben (31) has already flown 15 years on microlight aircraft and logged in around 700 hours of flying. A commerce graduate, Audrey started out as a glide pilot for the NCC after which she set up Bangalore Aerosports with her husband, Wing Commander Ashok Mehta. She continues to fly with her children now.

Vinitha Mariappa (26) has logged in around 600 hours of flying on microlight aircrafts after 9 years of flying. A commerce graduate, Vinitha began her stint with parasailing and then got involved with Bangalore Aerosports as she was fascinated with aircrafts and piloting. She has a licence from France too where she has done quite a bit of flying. ( times network)

Pilot Vinitha Mariappa in her microlight aircraft in Bangalore.

Pilot Audrey Maben after a flight in her microlight in Bangalore.

A typical microlight aircraft seen in Jakkur aerodrome Bangalore.

Keep track of finances to avoid rude shocks

Contingency fund, credit status, health insurance and investment programme have to be monitored regularly

Annual health check up is common feature in the lives of those who are on the wrong side of thirty. However, if you were to ask them about their financial health, they would stare at you blankly. “Financial health, what is that,” asks Reema Khanna incredulously. “I didn’t know just like you test your blood pressure or blood sample to know about your health, you have tests to evaluate your financial health,” she says with a laugh. Well, you really don’t have to rush for any tests at a pathology laboratory to assess your financial health. All you have to do is ask you some simple question and answer honestly.

Do you have contingency fund? “I have around Rs 30,000 in my bank and I have Rs 50,000 in fixed dep o s i t s, ” replies Khanna. Is that enough? “As thumb rule, you should have at least six months’ expenses as your contingency fund. This is especially important in the case of young professionals as they don’t enjoy job security like the older generation,” says an investment consultant. “Ideally, you should keep the money with a liquid scheme of a mutual fund. But even fixed deposit is okay, as you can always break an fixed deposit within 24 hours,” he adds. How did Khanna fare at the test? Well, she needs to more than double here contingency fund.

How is your credit health is the next question you should ask yourself. The answer is likely to be a bit complicated, as most of us would have various equated monthly instalments (EMI) towards house, car, and electronic gadgets among other things. You can take the house out of this list as investment experts consider it as a good asset. Other credits, most importantly credit card debts, are termed as bad debts. What about Khanna? She has a housing loan and Rs 25,000 in credit card debt. It point towards serious financial health problem. Think of it: she is earning 3.5% on Rs 30,000 in her savings bank account and paying around 36% on Rs 25,000 on her credit card. It just doesn’t make sense, right?

Do you have a health insurance cover? Surprised to hear a question about health in a financial quiz? Don’t be. A health insurance cover assures that your financial plans don’t go awry on the event of an unforeseen event. As you know, a minor surgery or a hospitalisation calls for a few thousands these days. If you have a medical insurance cover, it will take care of the money needed for your medical expenses. Otherwise, you would be forced to dip into your own savings. Sorry, Khanna is going to disappoint you if you thought she would again reply in the negative. She has a medical insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh.
Finally, do you have an investment p ro - gramme to take care of your various goals? Khanna gives her ‘whaton-earth-is-that’ look. She says she has money in her bank account, public provident fund, employees provident fund, some gold… “I don’t have any specific plan like retirement. I think I am a good saver and I would need for my future needs,” explains Khanna. Is she right?

Well, she is heading for massive financial arrest. To put it mildly, she is most likely to find out after her retirement and her corpus is not big enough to maintain her lifestyle.

“Saving money with the notion that it will take care of all your future needs is a big mistake. You have to identify each goal and work with numbers to make sure that there are no nasty surprises in store,” says the investment consultant.

Women prefer gentlemen!

Chivalry may no longer be about the swashbuckling knight in shining armour, but it’s far from dead. find out what works in today’s context

IT was a high noon, I was waiting in line at a bank and a man opened the door for a woman leaving at the same time as him. She stared at him without budging. He stayed put — arm stretched, holding the door. She still didn’t budge. Finally, he broke the awkwardness and let himself out the door first. I thought to myself, are there really women who don’t like to have the door opened for them?

Is expectation of chivalry dead? If it is, is that a good thing? A new guide to chivalry for the modern man Manners for Men is selling like hot cakes abroad. The guide promises to equip any male with style and panache to confront every social challenge —from guidance on being an erotic lover and dealing with female bosses to training on how to open a door for a woman and how to play the date game. But are these old notions of etiquette valid in today’s world, where women claim to be second to none? Maybe, in today’s post-feminist society, it’s time we rewrote rules of etiquette and chivalry.

“I know there are lots of chivalrous men. I know many wonderful, valiant, courageous, high-minded men. They are wonderful lights in our lives — please keep it up and do not be discouraged! And thank you gentlemen — take a young boy under your wing and teach him a thing or two,” says Ruksana Eisa, image consultant, who teaches etiquette and manners to MNC guys.

Sometimes, when you are out driving or shopping and a man cuts you off or lets the door slam in your face, or cuts in line, you mumble, “Chivalry is dead.” This is what life coach and grooming consultant Chaya Momaya has to say about such incidents: “No, you are not being overly sensitive if you are hurt by such incidents. The modern woman is very capable and strong and can take good care of herself, but just what happened to manners and the gallant spirit? Doesn’t anyone want to possess these qualities anymore? ” Momaya’s advice to parents: “Raise your sons to be giving gentlemen. Some might call this old-fashioned. I think it’s decent and it raises their spirits to have the opportunity to shine this way. They should treat others, men and women, with a giving spirit. I would like my son to respect women so he can, for one, meet a respectable woman.”

Now that we’ve come a long way from the Emily Post era, which was ruled by Victorian prudery, what would a modern day manual on chivalry read like? “It should tell men to use subtle rather than condescending gestures. Anything that is exaggerated or loud is not stylish. For example, a man opening the car door for his woman with a flourish and a bow might invite guffaws from his peers, but the same thing done subtly would certainly earn him brownie points. Expectations remain the same, only certain guidelines in etiquette need to be revised or re-evaluated,” says former diplomat Bhaichand Patel. “Let’s not give a sexist or feminist twist to chivalry. If it gives pleasure to both sexes, then what’s the problem?” he adds.

Chivalry and feminism can definitely go hand in hand. What kind of guy doesn’t see an opportunity to be a gentleman and jump at the chance to flex his muscles and fend off the boogieman for a fair maiden? And which lady would mind such behaviour?” asks columnist Santosh Desai. It baffles Desai that women would reject a nice gesture. “Letting a man open the door for you will not cause you to lose your equal rights. It feels good — both ways,” he says.

Some women have caused the death of chivalry because they believe letting a man buy them dinner goes against feminism. Why would a guy go out of his way to help a damsel in distress if he gets rebuked later? “I think we have developed a double standard. Girls are looking for a guy who will listen to them, look them in the eye and not their chest, and offer them his coat when they’re cold. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but those attributes have the air of chivalry about them,” opines Patel. Would a manual on manners go down well with Indian men? “Most Indian men are pathetic when it comes to etiquette. Though in the well-heeled society there is an outward veneer of chivalry, deep down they have a condescending attitude in matters of manners and etiquette towards all and sundry, not just women,” says socialite and activist Bina Ramani.

“I’ve been in august company where well-educated, suave men order their wives or girlfriends around. Even at work or at social gatherings, they simply don’t know how to behave right in the presence of women. It’s a sexist society. It’s faulty upbringing; Indian men are treated as gods in their homes. Even women do not complain about this,” says Patel. But both Momaya and Eisa say the scene is changing. The number of male members enrolled in their grooming classes is proof enough. And they are trying to learn the tricks of the trade — from boardroom to bedroom. “Indian men will only learn to be civilised when there’s a social cost to be paid. And now that it’s happening, they are bound to modify their behaviour,” says Desai. Ramani sums it up by saying, “Chivalry came at a time when men earned and women stayed at home. Men were the providers and protectors. But now the dynamics have changed. Women are on the same footing. Yet certain things remain the same. Like the girl making a cup of tea for her man or the guy paying for dinner. These are charming things of life that still warms the cockles of the heart. Let’s not give it a sexist colour. And why only women, we should extend chivalry to children as well as animals.” Are you guys out there listening?


Maintain good hygiene; take care of body odour. Resist from lapsing into locker room conversations, swear words and slang at the drop of a hat. Use 'thank you' and 'please’ liberally. Treat female colleagues with respect. You don't have to get up everytime she comes into your cubicle, but back-slapping chumminess is not desirable either. Stop staring at the wrong places. Women instinctively know.

Women - call 'em better half naaaaahh The Other Half

Delivery pains!

Being a surrogate mother isn't just about renting your womb. The agony that accompanies it, is tried to explain in a few words.

THE tales of women who rent their wombs are often heartbreakingly sad. Meet a surrogate mother, and it is likely she'll move you to tears.

When you look at Meena (name changed), you might still catch a glint of happiness reflecting in her warm eyes. She is in her late twenties and has just delivered a healthy male child. And is paid Rs 25,000 extra over her official fees of Rs 1.25 lakh by the child's overjoyed parents. Initially, she was upset. She didn't know being a surrogate mother would bring her such intense emotional pain.

After all, the baby grew within her for nine months. It wasn't easy. She had to look for an anonymous place as she didn't want her relatives and in-laws to find out about her pregnancy. Her husband supported her. She already had her own four-year-old daughter. She became a surrogate mother out of financial compulsions. But Meena insists that the urge to see another helpless woman become a mother made her feel better and she could justify herself. "Since there was no physical intimacy involved, I had no problems, nor did my husband have any apprehensions about it. The doctor implanted the embryo into my womb. After which, I had to take care of the baby and myself.

Though I have been a mother before, this time I was more careful. I was staying at a secret place with my family. The couple would take care of my medical expenses and anything I desired. When I was in my eighth month of pregnancy, I craved for icecreams. The couple paid for it everyday. Whenever I wanted something, I would call the doctor who would then communicate with the couple."

In the last few years, surrogate motherhood has become common. Delay in marriage and motherhood is a reason for the popularity of surrogacy, say experts.

Infertility specialists from Lilavati hospital, Mumbai, Dr Hrishikesh Pai and Dr Nandita Palshetkar recollect their first case, in 2003, when the concerned lady's uterus was damaged by infection. She couldn't carry the baby and was producing poor quality eggs. "So we took an egg donor and IVF (In vitro fertlisation) was performed with the husband's sperm. The resulting embryo was implanted in the surrogate's womb, and twins were delivered in April 2004," says Dr Pai.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, National Academy of Medical Sciences among others drafted and finalised the guidelines on regulation of Surrogacy in India in 2001-2002. Since then, it reached new levels. The guidelines are expected to be passed as a law soon, says Dr Palshetkar.

Increasingly, many career women are opting for this option to prevent a break in their career. "Surrogacy can happen with the sperm of the commissioning father injected into the vagina of the surrogate mother. But in India, it largely happens by implanting the embryo of the commissioning couple into the uterus of the surrogate mother. Negotiations between a couple and a surrogate mother must be conducted only between them. A surrogate child is as legitimate a child as any other child," says Dr Palshetkar.

A Guide to Surrogacy
  • The commissioning parents must adopt a child born through surrogacy if the eggs and the sperms do not belong to them.
  • Surrogacy by assisted conception should normally be considered only for patients for whom it would be medically impossible to carry a baby to term.
  • A surrogate mother should not be over 45 years of age. Before accepting a woman as a possible surrogate for a particular couple's child, the clinic must ensure that the woman satisfies all the testable criteria.
  • A relative, a known person, as well as a person unknown to the couple may act as a surrogate mother for the couple
  • A prospective surrogate mother must be tested for HIV.

Quality time for family bonding

Spend more time with your family and fit in some leisure breaks in your work schedule for good health and well-being, (The author is a consulting psychiatrist)

Lifestyles have undergone a sea change in Bangalore over the past few years. In a busy globalised world, time barriers have been breached. There are no defined working hours. People work longer hours and keep odd times. Sleep cycles get disturbed. There is little time for health-related activities, recreation or leisure. People commute long hours to work and the traffic chaos adds to stress.

At times, people reach office tired and returns home exhausted. The Internet and cell phone have blurred the boundary between workplace and home. Very often, couched in front of the TV and surfing channels becomes the only leisure option. If you are not aware of the quality of food you eat, it may lead to an overt or covert consumption of junk food. Weight gain results and you enter the whirlpool of urban lifestyle problems.

The World Heart Day observed last month reminded one of some chilling facts. There has been a 10 fold increase in coronary heart disease over the past 40 years. People below the age of 40 account for 30 percent of the heart cases in the country.The causes may be genetic but unhealthy lifestyles contribute significantly. Urbanites have three times as many cardiac problems as their rural counterparts and increasing prevalence of diabetes is a new urban phenomenon. There is something in the rural lifestyle that is protective.

When lifestyles compromise on health it is time one looked for remedies. Habitual micro-focused lifestyles are confining people to mental ruts, robbing them of the richness of a variety of experiences.

The solution is to use the limited time efficiently to achieve a work-life balance. All your waking hours should be quality time. It is a question of attitude. Of care and respect for oneself. Regular exercise is essential. A brisk 45 minute walk will do wonders for physical and psychological well-being. A common excuse heard is that there is no time. When it is a question of health your priorities should be in place. As important would be leisure and recreational activities.

There is merit in enriching family and social relationships. Spend quality time with children and family, and get involved in activities concerning them. It is important that you are part of their growing up. This is the time to bond and inculcate in them your sense of values. This is an investment in the future happiness of the family. Finally, it is in sleep that the brain recovers from the rigours of the day. Ensure 6-8 hours of refreshing sleep everyday.

Everyone wants to lead a healthy, happy and peaceful life. Pause, sometime, everyday to ask yourself what your life means to you.

Quality of life is questionable when…

• Work is central to life

• Investing in other roles is considered a waste

• You come home late from work, and believe you are doing well

• You are encouraged and rewarded to work beyond working hours

• Even when on the bench, you keep late hours to keep your self esteem intact

• Your work is at the expense of other social roles

For quality of life and bonding…

• Schedule or prioritise various aspects of life

• Fulfill roles in life

• Don't let work interfere with performance of social roles

• Invest time in your marriage, foster companionship, increase mutual understanding

• Make time spent with children and aging/ill parents meaningful

Work at the expense of social roles leads to…

• Poor social skills

• Boredom easily at work

• Decreased efficiency

• Decreased satisfaction
Productivity is linked to quality of life.

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