How an Indian Girl walked away when offered the Job of a Waitress – 4 May 16

Of course we have all kinds of experiences now with the restaurant, not only with our existing staff or with guests but also with people who are looking for jobs. The other day, there was a woman who confirmed something I have written about before: people think for a lot of work that it is something they are too good for. With our restaurant, we have experienced that first-hand.

This lady entered our restaurant together with her daughter and directly approached me at the cashier counter. She shortly introduced herself and her daughter, explaining their reason for coming: her daughter, twenty years old was currently studying for her Master degree in Commerce and was looking for a place to work. She literally said ‘She can do any kind of work’.

It was pretty clear from the way that they approached and explained that the young woman could handle a computer that she wanted to work at our cashier counter. I thought for a second how exactly to reply but when the woman continued ‘Please, we really need the extra income right now!’, I made up my mind. My answer was: ‘We will be happy to have your daughter here. We do the work at the computer ourselves, but we would need some help in service.’

I could see how the woman’s mind processed this information and how the reaction clearly formed on her face: disbelief and, soon to follow, a kind of outrage at my proposal! ‘You mean, my daughter should serve people water and food here?’

I already knew now what the mentality of this family was: this girl would not work here… I clarified: ‘Yes, that would include serving water and food, welcoming guests and the like.’

Oh, she did not like this – but I continued: ‘Do you think that is some kind of small work? I myself do this, it is a very important and respectable work!’ The mother was very angry however and nearly shouted: ‘But she is educated, she is doing a master degree!’ I answered: ‘But you said she could do any kind of work!’ Without further reply, she took her daughter by the arm and stormed out of the restaurant.

I know that this is a very common problem: people think that certain work is something that they are too good for. Something people do who are below them. I don’t believe in this. Every work is necessary and thus should be respected. You need a job but you think you are too good to do what is actually needed? Well, then you don’t fit in here and won’t like our thinking anyway!

Marriage is a Bond of Love – Kids prove that Gender doesn’t matter! – 15 Mar 16

While we were in Gurgaon in the past days, an event took place which Ramona would have attended, had she been in Vrindavan: a girl who has learnt at our school got married. What makes me write about it now is not however this fact but Apra’s response to it when we met her yesterday!

The girl I am writing about has started her schooling already at a higher age than children usually do – that’s how her parents have decided to marry her now. After her wedding, she had gone to her husband’s home. Yesterday she came back and as she lives close-by, she stopped by at our restaurant on the way. She was accompanied by her sister and both of them talked for a while with Ramona. Obviously, Apra, in the meantime was standing next to them, watching and listening.

After they had gone, Apra asked Ramona: ‘Ma, has she married a man or a woman?’

For us, this was actually a question that made us happy and in a way satisfied: our definition of marriage, which we told Apra of course, is that two people love each other so much that they decide to live together forever. Please note: two people, not a man and a woman.

Obviously, as the majority of marriages in our surrounding consist of one man and a woman, we were not completely sure whether Apra had picked up that detail consciously or not. This question however confirmed: for Apra, it is just natural that two men or two women can love each other as much as her Ma and Pa do.

It is a natural thing to feel and believe – and I believe as long as you don’t actively teach children to think differently, boys and girls will grow into adults who accept homosexuality as something normal. Something that comes with whatever an individual feels.

When we talked about this incident, Ramona laughingly told me about another conversation she had with our daughter: Apra and she were inventing a story about two princesses. They were sisters and Apra decided that they would also get married but when Ramona objected that sisters don’t marry, Apra replied: ‘Okay, they can marry a prince. But they have to share!’

That, my dear daughter, is promiscuity and a topic we will discuss another time! 🙂

Be careful with judging others – they may do the same with you! – 22 Feb 16

Don’t you sometimes think that we judge others too easily? That we decide to have a certain opinion about them simply based on seeing them for a very short time, acting in a certain situation? Do you realize you are sometimes judged the same way?

I am someone who says we need judgement. Yes, we do need to judge what is right or wrong, good or bad otherwise we will never in life be able to take decisions. Judgement on others however, should always be handled differently! You may have to judge quickly on whether you want to go way A or way B but when meeting another person, you are not in a rush and may not ever need to make a final judgement at all!

See, we usually get to know a glimpse of a person in our daily life. Unless you spend a lot of time with the other one, there is no way you can really understand where he or she is coming from, why they act the way they do and what they are thinking about.

So you go through your life, catching glimpses of other people’s lives. Some of us right away make our judgement: the woman in the business suit is money-focused. The man with his two children is a good father. The old lady with a bag full of empty bottles is a heavy drinker. But how do we really know?

Life is not black and white. Circumstances lead to actions, many colours paint a picture. Your way does not always have to be the right one. Maybe for you, maybe not for others around you! You may feel good the way you live but there can be others who want to live differently and just because you wouldn’t enjoy that, they may very well do!

By judging, we try to categorize the world and put it in a system that it actually doesn’t fit in. We don’t realize that in the consequence we sometimes react in a negative way on others which is completely uncalled for. We may even prevent positive things from happening to us by doing this quick judgement.

Keep an open mind. This will help you incredibly while trying not to judge others. Remember that there may be other circumstances than what you see right away. And even if you don’t approve – the other one is free to think and act differently, isn’t he? Many times, it won’t even affect you in any way, so you can let it go instead of reacting to the difference.

I think it would help most of us to take all these points into consideration when meeting other people. Be open for each other and anything new that comes your way!

Offering the Mobile Phone – A new Way of bribing Children – 26 Jan 16

We are back in Vrindavan now and although our trip to Delhi – or rather Gurgaon – was not actually successful and didn’t serve its purpose, we of course have collected a few more impressions. Many of these have something to do with Apra, with whom it is always fun to go out, no matter where. People of course also react to her, not only she to them – and this time I found one way of approaching her strange: a man offered her to play with his mobile phone!

We were having breakfast at the hotel, something which Apra always enjoys to the fullest. She was picking something from my plate, then from Ramona’s, in between ate from her own. While we were enjoying thus filling our bellies with fruit, toast and more, the hotel’s restaurant manager approached our table to ask whether everything was alright. Ramona and I answered that we were enjoying our meal very much.

Apra waved when he did but when he asked what her name was, she was too shy or maybe too busy to reply. He asked her how she was and when she didn’t give a reply either, he asked her: ‘Do you want to have my mobile?’

Ramona and I both knew that this would not have the desired effect on Apra. We don’t give her video games to play, she has some educational games on our iPad and just in general, she is not completely crazy about phones. As expected, Apra shook her head and continued eating which finally prompted the man to move on.

Ramona and I looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing: is this a new thing to make children like you? Offering them your phone?

If it is so, I think it is a sad development of our society! A video game for bribing a child? Anyway, aren’t we trying to teach children to be friendly and nice to everyone, not only those who give us something? And do you really think if the child takes your phone to play with, he or she would have any kind of reason to then talk to you? The kid will get totally absorbed in the phone, not in a conversation with you.

As a parent, I especially wonder what you would actually suggest my daughter should do on your phone. What kind of games do you want her to play – and what if I didn’t approve of that? Another thought, this one a bit funny – would you like her going through your picture gallery? Or would you not actually give her the phone at all, just offering it for teasing?

We are teaching Apra to politely reply questions for her name and wellbeing. While she may not actually follow these manners yet all the time, I would prefer you not trying to bribe her. Some normal interaction would be much better and, in my opinion, much more effective!

Why young Indians don’t have to think twice before lying to their Parents – 18 Jan 16

Last week I told you about the metropolitan cities in India where parents cling to tradition in order not to get lost in all the new ways that a modern life brings. While they are in many ways trying to be modern, especially the raising of daughters brings them back to tradition – and this can create quite some trouble! Let me tell you how.

Over the past months, I have met a lot of young Indian people and many of them from Delhi. We talked about a lot of things, among others the lifestyle that girls and young women have in Delhi. They go to study and after their university, they start working somewhere. They travel around Delhi by Metro and auto-rickshaw, they use the offers that the big town gives them and they enjoy their lives. There is however a problem: they cannot be open with their parents about everything!

Several of the young women who visited us told that they also went on dates. Many enjoyed spending their time with friends of both genders and some of them had had boyfriends in the past as well. They went to late-night movie shows and even stayed at their boyfriends’ places overnight.

Obviously, that was not something they told their parents! I say obviously because it is still very much unthinkable in India for unmarried young people to be spending the night together. And they knew very well their parents would not allow this and instead create a lot of problems for them from uncomfortable discussions maybe even to punishments like being grounded.

So instead, these girls told me very openly that they lied. They told that they had work for university or that they would be with their best girlfriend overnight whom the parents knew well. The truth would have made everyone unhappy, they explained. A lie saves them from a lot of questions, uncomfortable situations and they know they would never be able to satisfy them anyway. So why to even start a discussion? In their faces I could see that they did not feel guilty about these lies at all.

This cannot be right. It is not right from either side but as a parent, you should think about why your child would feel the need to lie to you. I believe parents are responsible for these lies, forcing them with their restrictions. What are we doing by forcefully holding on to outdated traditions in modern times? We create a gap in between parents and children. Your children, themselves young adults, know what you would not allow them to do. They also know what they could be doing. They watch movies and want to have the same freedom, especially in a town in which it would be so easy!

And most of all, girls want to do what their brothers do. Why do you let them roam around freely at night? Why don’t you call them three times if it is after ten in the evening in order to see when they come home? Why are you okay with the thought that they might have a girlfriend but not okay with the thought that your daughter might have a boyfriend?

By forbidding and prohibiting, you are making your children lie. Be open with them and talk about things. Give them more freedom and they will stick to the rules that you are really serious about. Most of all, they will be safe. Because they can come to you and tell you about their problems. Otherwise, all you get is lies!

Leave old Times behind – ‘No Sex before Wedding’ is a Moral of the Past – 13 Jan 16

For the past two days I have been writing about the pressure especially women face here in India after their wedding: while they were supposed to be virgins until the day they enter marriage, they are now supposed to become pregnant as soon as possible! India lives in a society with lots of restrictions when it comes to morality. I believe this has to change to make space for more happiness and satisfaction in a modern life!

It is true that a lot of these moral values and ideas of how one should behave have its origin somewhere in the past and in that time they may have been right, too. In earlier times, people didn't have such a high life expectancy as they have today. In order to make sure that their children got old enough to survive before lot of these moral values and ideas of how one should behave have its origin somewhere in the past and in that time they may have been right, too. In earlier times, people didn't have such a high life expectancy they themselves died, they had to start producing offspring early. That's how it made sense for a married couple to put their efforts into this right after marriage. And that's how still today it is Indian standard to make babies as soon as possible. Nine months after the wedding, it could already be time!

Not before the wedding though! Oh no, unmarried women should never get pregnant, that would be disastrous! In earlier times, it could really have meant her ruin because women were the ones taking care of the home while men were providers. They had no possibility to earn money and support themselves and their baby!

Today however, things are different. The outer environment has changed and thoughts should change accordingly, too! Nowadays we can expect to live long enough for seeing our kids grow up and sometimes even our grandchildren, too! So we can wait a few years longer before we actually marry and a few years more before we get children! There is no need to get married in a hurry to a person we don't know. Arranged marriage doesn't make sense – you have enough time to find someone you actually like and want to spend the rest of your life with! And you don't have to rush with getting children either!

Finally, today women should have the possibility to earn their own money and support themselves. So if they have sex before marriage, if they get pregnant and if they decide to keep the child, it should not be the end of the world!

Unfortunately we are not yet at this stage here in India, as you know if you have been following my blog or are familiar with the situation here. But we should reach there – and I think with time, we will!

The horrible Consequences of Pressuring Women to bear Children – 12 Jan 16

I yesterday told you about the expectations that Indian parents, in-laws and society members have on newlywed couples: they should get babies as soon as possible, otherwise something is wrong with them! That is a whole lot of pressure especially on the woman who is the one that is repeatedly asked and expected to report. A lot of women actually believe that this is what is supposed to happen after marriage anyway and they, too, want it to happen. They want to conceive – but that is not always up to human to decide! Sometimes, it just doesn't happen. And that is when the pressure of society can become too much for them to handle!

I have met a lot of women in the situation that they could not conceive or that the fetus in their body never grew. I talked to women all over the world about their mental, emotional and physical problems. The stress is big on all of them – but in India the pressure from the outside is by far the worst!

Obviously, if you have tried for a long time and have had several miscarriages or simply never conceived, it is emotionally draining. It is physically challenging as well. It is a mental burden. But in the west, it is usually a burden that comes from the inside of the woman herself. It is born in her own wish to have a baby and the fact that this wish has not fulfilled as well as the fear that it may never be reality.

In India, the burden mostly originates from fear of disappointing others, from the wish of others to have a grandchild, from the expectation and pressure – because that is what it is – to bear children. The fear of being seen as inadequate, unable to perform the most basic of your duties as a woman and the emotional pain it gives you to not be able to fulfill the wishes of others. Along with the regret that your own feelings don't seem to count at all. Own disappointment may play a minor role, too, but it is overshadowed greatly by influences from the outside!

Of course in India, too, there are procedures to be done if you cannot seem to conceive a child. Fertility tests for both partners, devices to measure the time of ovulation, several methods to help conceiving naturally and of course IVF, in vitro fertilization. Apart from the fact that some of these treatments require young couples to take loans to be able to pay for them, are also as painful emotionally as they are physically! Upon failure – and the chances of success are often dishearteningly low – women are shattered! All their hopes for happiness, love and respect from the outside are gone with the eggs or embryos that left her body back to its non-pregnant state!

Women fall in depression. They lose the charm for living. There have even been suicides out of this very reason! Especially due to arranged marriages where it is a bargain you make for marrying and where love is not a factor in the equation. It is as though the groom got damaged good that did not function well and could not bear the produce it should!

Can you believe we lose lives due to this stupid expectation? Of course parents have a right to have hopes and dreams for grandchildren. They have no right to create pressure though and the whole society should know: by valuing the phantom of a future child more than the woman’s feelings, you make her sick. You kill her a little inside with every month’s menstruation! Is this what you want? I don't think so!

So please let couples fall in love and marry out of love. Let them decide when it is the right time for a child. Let them live their own life. Be there for them when you are needed for support – be that a helping hand in changing diapers or a shoulder to cry on when the wish for a baby remained unfulfilled!

Jobs for both Genders but Housework remains the Task of Women – 10 Dec 15

Yesterday I started writing about gender roles and how they are also still present in the west, even if not as strongly as you can see them in India. While I yesterday concentrated on the pressure that men have on not becoming ‘unmanly’ by performing household chores for example, women also still have to fight outdated ideas of people regarding their gender.

Obviously, a lot of families in India expect women to be at home while there have already been generations of children in the west growing up while their mother was working – halftime or even fulltime! Women are not expected to be housewives after marriage. The infrastructure for working mothers has improved.

But it is not perfect. Women are not free of gender roles and expectations on how they should behave. We have not yet reached equality in so many aspects: the chances for women to get up into management are lower and their salary is lower than that of male employees in the same position! And in people’s minds, the inequality is even much worse which often causes the women themselves to have doubts on their autonomy and role in their family or society!

You can see that in the way a family is set up. It may be more normal that a mother also goes to work but at the same time, you will often see that she nevertheless is the one to do a majority of the chores at home. She can be the toughest person at work but at home, she believes it is right that she does the cooking and picks up the kids. Her husband, having worked equal hours, gets to relax on the couch. Often, both don’t see anything wrong until she suddenly suffers from extreme stress, depression and burnout. She has shouldered it all, thinking it is her task to be a modern working woman and a perfect housewife and mother at the same time!

I have met a lot of women who have taken all of these tasks on themselves. They embrace the idea that they can be independent, equal to men and work as hard and long as they can – but they still expect of themselves to complete all the tasks that their grandmothers were doing at home perfectly as well! They forget that their grandmothers did only that. Not that it shouldn’t be valued – but you just cannot be superwoman, managing work, household and children perfectly at all times!

Unfortunately men also play a role in strengthening this belief: it is so comfortable to just have their wives do it all, so why bother and help? Why to get up and wash the dishes yourself? Why to iron your own shirts if someone is doing it for you?

Because you love your wife and want your daughters to be strong women as well. Teach your sons that they can help at home by showing them how. Show your daughters that men and women help each other and master work and household together! Take responsibility at home – after all your wife is helping financially by her work as well!

We are still stuck in outdated gender roles and it will still be a long way to get out of them, reaching equality. As long as we take one step after the other, however, we can one day reach there!

No, cleaning the House is not unmanly at all! – 9 Dec 15

When I was yesterday writing about the school book that suggested you should be scared of at least one family member, which would mostly be the father, I had to reflect on gender roles a little bit. I came to the conclusion that even in modern countries, people still struggle with what they are ‘supposed to do’ simply because they are either a man or a woman.

Obviously, in India, the traditional distribution of tasks according to gender is still very much in place. The man is the provider for the family. In a lot of families, women only go to work if they absolutely have to so that their family can survive. Even among the poor families of our school however there are also some of those fathers who would see it as a big shame if their wife worked and contributed to the family income! That’s how they would rather go to bed hungry than letting their wives go to work. And that is the case even if the woman is more than willing to go and earn money!

Of course, in India, many women still stay at home right after their marriage and when they have children even though they have completed studies at their university. They have master degrees but because they are women, they have the task of taking care of the house, bearing children and raising them.

In the west, too, however, I have seen that both women and men still are not at ease with completely leaving these roles. I believe it is completely fine if a woman wants to be at home after being a mother and raising the children. If it is financially possible as well as something that makes her happy, I would encourage that. At the same time however it should be just as fine if her husband decides to do this instead! She goes to work and finances the home while the husband does the tasks from washing the laundry to doing diapers!

Unfortunately, men who decide to take this step are very often laughed about. Their efforts are belittled – which only shows how very little you actually respect women who do all of this work! You still think the work that is done at home is less important, less difficult and can be done by someone not qualified to do the ‘higher work’, the one that earns money! What a nonsense! The best cure for anybody who thinks like this would be to just try it himself! Take the challenge and show me how you can clean the whole house, go shopping, cook for the complete family and wash everyone’s clothes with two toddlers running around you!

Isn’t it unbelievable that still today, 15 years into the 21st century, there are a lot of people thinking it is unmanly to wash your own clothes and cook your own food, not to speak of feeding your offspring, those who will one day do the same for you?

It is the same reason why people think men should not cry, the same reason why in the west you will see women walking arm and arm but not men. Why showing affection is something reserved for women and alcohol is the solution to problems instead of talking about your own feelings!

Stop putting too much pressure on a man’s shoulders while not valuing and respecting a woman’s abilities! Women have their own burden to bear – but more about that tomorrow.

Trying an open Relationship is not wrong – I just think it won’t work! – 3 Dec 15

After having explained about open relationships in the past three days and telling of reasons why they often do not work out, I would like to make one more thing very clear here: while I believe it cannot be successful, I don't see anything wrong if people want to try!

I have a very open mind and attitude in general and also when it comes to the subject of sex. I believe it is fully your choice with whom you would like to have sex. If you feel like having sex with several different people throughout the week, please do. If you don't feel like committing to one person, don't. If you feel like having one steady partner and agree on freedom of having more sexual partners at everyone’s wish, it is fully fine as well.

Sex has become a taboo, although it is the most pleasurable thing in the world to do, to experiment with and to try out. Maybe due to exactly this pleasure, it was suppressed again and again in an attempt to control people.

Instead, you can use sex to empower yourself. When I say this, however, I don't mean that you get any more powerful if you sleep with as many people as possible just because society tells you not to. No, I mean that you should listen to your heart and follow the needs of your body as well as your feelings. That you do not let traditions and social rules keep you from going the way your heart leads you.

On the long run however, I believe most people's heart will tell them: oh, this is the one, a person whom I don't want to share with others and for whom I want to be the only one.

Anything else is, in my eyes, just not successful.