Flexidaddying is a Struggle Sometimes but works very well

Samar Halarnkar started his career as a crime reporter. After that, he worked with a variety of publications – The Indian ExpressIndia Today and Hindustan Times. He recently penned The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking and believes that cooking teaches men respect for women who stay home. The Flexidad speaks about the need to be more focused and organised when working from home, and how work-life balance is something that is a matter of continuous striving

The cooking connection. My mother made me and my brother help in the kitchen when we were boys. I started serious cooking when I couldn’t afford to eat out and craved good food. I had to cook so I could eat good food. I had to learn, improvise and improve. Not so difficult, really. As far as family goes, what’s not to like? They rarely have to bother about food on the table.  Seriously, my wife has no problem at all. My father, I don’t know. I think he struggles with the idea, he could not understand why I quit at what he considered the peak of my career, so to say… Cooking is just a part of my life, like brushing teeth or waking up. I do not consider it extraordinary.

Cooking betters men. Indian sons are victims of the mera-raja-beta syndrome. Learning to cook helps you appreciate the effort it takes to run a kitchen and feed a family. And it teaches you respect for women who stay home; it’s a respect that Indian men sorely lack.

Working at home. The thing about writing is, you just have to do it. Everything else is an excuse. I say this because I am constantly finding excuses not to write this piece or that. I realise I just have to find the time and do it. Not that I succeed each time, of course.

The balancing act. The work-life balance is something that is a matter of continuous striving. I can’t say that flexi-work has got me the balance, but it is much, much better than it was when I was working. I mean I miss the newsroom and working with colleagues in an office. On the flip side, there’s time with the kid, exploring and thinking of new things to do…just need to be more focused and organised at home, I find, than at office.

Being a Flexidad. It’s no different from being a Fleximom, I imagine. It’s a struggle sometimes, but it works very well. I get to spend time with my daughter, watch her grow up. It’s priceless. My wife does get jealous — that my daughter gives me more kisses than her. But, of course, there are sacrifices.

Working freelance in India. The going is not easy for freelance writers. I have fixed columns, a legacy of my previous job. So, I’m lucky. Otherwise, it’s very tough. It’s not so abroad. We are just unprofessional around here!

Getting published. It was quite easy to get published because I am a man. I suspect it would’ve been far more difficult if I wasn’t. Most women do what I do every day, with no fuss. You’re having this chat with me because I am male because it all appears very novel (when it should not be). If I was a fleximom, I don’t think this would be happening.

What I cook best. I cook meat and fish best, though I learned to cook veggie food after marriage because my wife is a vegetarian. We both do the dishes, but I end up doing them more often than not. Hard to expect my wife to do it after a hard day’s work.

A ‘jugaad’ recipe for all Fleximoms. The big bang stir-fry

Ingredients: 1 tsp sesame seeds, ½ tsp black-onion seeds (kalonji), 6-7 dried chillies, 8-9 large garlic pods, smashed or chopped fine, 1 tsp fresh, grated ginger or galangal (Thai ginger), 1 flat tsp red chilli powder (or paprika), 1 medium broccoli, reduced to florets; 1 small zucchini, halved and sliced; 1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped long; 1 small yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped long; 1 tsp fresh rosemary; 2 tbsp soy sauce; red-wine vinegar (or red wine) to sprinkle

Method: Season a medium-size wok with olive oil. Throw in sesame, dried chillies (snap them into half) and black-onion seeds. When seeds start to sputter, add garlic. Cook till lightly brown. Add ginger. Stir quickly. Add chilli powder. Add broccoli and zucchini. Sprinkle with vinegar (or wine) so it sizzles. Add soya sauce for next sizzle. Toss on high heat until almost cooked. Add peppers. Add salt. Toss all vegetables. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and grind fresh pepper. Serve.

Try these. Sridatta Boarding House in Mumbai (Lalbaug) and Royal China at VT. In Bangalore, Sunny’s. The Naga kitchen in Delhi Haat and the Italian restaurant in Jor Bagh market. Sridatta has the simplest and best vadi (masala puris) and Konkan-style fish and meat curries. Royal China has great dim sums; Naga kitchen is perfect for experimenting with pork varieties.

Cooks in the making, listen up.  Just do it! If I can, anyone can. When I began cooking, I stumbled all the time.

The last word. It’s been great talking to everyone, though I had to persuade the wife to be a fleximom today and pick up my daughter, so I could do the chat.

The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking and Other Dubious Adventures by Samar Halarnkar, Westland, Rs 495

Where is the Rice?

I reach France to attend the Women’s Forum and it is the first day of the program. I am rushing for a workshop at the Cartier Headquarters and the phone rings. It is my husband and the first thing that he wants to know is  Where is the rice?

Rice? Duh! Really!  – Of course I tell him without even blinking and off he goes.

What flabbergasts me the most is that there are some stereotypes that never die. Between me and my husband, none of us cook, we pretty much share grocery and other duties but when it comes to ‘Where’ I find that men tend to assume that women know and usually they are right.

If there was a ranking for domestic duty proficiency – chances are that I will flunk it and my husband will pass with flying colors. But yet, I find time and again that domestic oblique just comes and gets stuck to women, hard to be undone.

Ask any woman, most of them are very in-charge of things at home but even for those who are not – in a major way, find themselves owing that piece.

A conversation with Mary Kronin @marycronin of @thousandseeds over a meal revealed a similar pattern. Both of us sat there amazed at the fact that as two women who have never met, how similar our lives are.

During my conversations at Fleximoms, I realize domestic marshland is the most under stated reason why women don’t back their careers up or pursue their ambition. The unsaid order of things, the need to fulfill the expected and the randomness of routine.

No, I am not offering a solution.

Just wondering – on a bus ride from Deauville to Paris!

A Flexidad shares on work and working from home and kids

Amit Wilson, an entrepreneur, founder Storemore (www.storemore.in) and a flexidad, shared his perspectives on choices, order and chaos in an event hosted by Fleximoms. In a room full of fleximoms, Amit was brave enough to share his experiences and learnings candidly. We share some of the conversation with you. You can catch the pictures on our facebook page - www.facebook.com/fleximoms

  One of the thoughts that stayed with us is what Amit said.
 “As a Flexidad there are three things I learnt about work - it pays your bills, it gives you a sense of moving forward, learning, development and it gives you a chance to play with grown ups, especially after you have spent a large part of your day playing with children.”
He added, “What I also learnt is that what really matters is to enjoy what you are doing and being with your family. When one is sitting on one’s desk writing a proposal, and one of the kids comes running to show you something he has done, it is alright to go ahead and listen to him. The child needs your attention and shooing him away is not going to help. The fastest way to get back to work is to listen to him first. One of my favorite memories of my flexidad life is sitting on my desk writing a proposal with one of my boys sitting on lap. It is a memory I cherish forever. My biggest learning has been that you got to prioritize – listen and pay attention to your family.”
 Amit also feels that chaos is not all bad – you need chaos for creativity – for entrepreneurship and little chaos is great to tell you all is well. He thinks that too much order and silence is worrying.
When it comes to workspaces, getting organized and putting some order in life, Amit mentioned that as a flexidad he learnt that working in an office is really easy, you still get way more done – despite – the coffee breaks and gossip. An office allows you to carve out space and time.
Along the way Amit felt that as our living spaces get smaller, it becomes harder for families and professionals to manage space, time, work, choices equation. He and his partners set up StoreMore (www.storemore.in) as a professional service to help customer declutter their living spaces, organize work from home and manage papers and records better.
If you run a business out home, StoreMore helps you managed your documents, samples, paperwork, records – not in a dump them somewhere sort of way but in a sort them and use them when I need them sort of way. As a small business or a flex or work from home professional, it will help you organize your space. Amit also said that while we need to throw away a lot of stuff, there is still a lot that one needs to keep and organize. StoreMore also emphasizes on the approach that deal with your clutter now and decide. And that is an approach which helped Amit a lot personally.
Amit added, “In what I do today is helping you carve out space as you choose to work from home. I can help with carving out time, but yes with space.”
More power to you Amit and may your tribe grow!
If you are a flexidad, fleximom or a professional with a  work-life choice experience, story, idea – please get in touch. We are happy to have you join the conversation.