Oct 20, 2018

Guest Post: It’s not what it looks like. Its me!

Over the past few weeks, India has latched on to its newest hashtag - #MeToo.
Dozens of women have called out men with any semblance of power and accusations of how they harassed, abused, molested, tortured, or in any way inconvenienced them.
The men who have been accused have predictably reacted with shock, denial, and counter-accusations. Some have even apologised. 

And as usual, the media has taken sides - We are pro-feminists. And as always, we have condemned the men in the courts of our consciences.

So in the spirit of coming out and calling out, I want my 5 minutes of fame too. 

I am a 36 year old Indian woman, born and brought up in New York. I was drugged and raped by my friend at a frat party. I’ve been ‘raped’ twice since then by men who wanted to be my boyfriends and then dumped. 

When I moved to India 10 years ago, I thought my past was behind me and I could leave the scars of my past behind. How wrong I was!

My first boyfriend was a wonderful man. Or at least I thought he was. Until I started to work late nights. His patience and ‘understanding nature’ wore thin and his suspicion grew. He wanted to know who I was with and why I had to work late every night. He couldn’t believe a woman needed a career for all the real reasons a man needed one. 
The first time he ‘raped’ me, it was after a miserable argument where he said, emphatically, how he didn’t need my money. He needed my body and that’s all there was. He apologised to me the next morning. 
A week later, it happened again. 
And again.

I thought my boss, a woman, would understand what I was going through. I guess I just needed a hug, an ally to tell me I’ll be fine. 
It didn’t happen. Pouring my heart out to my boss only appeared to give her more power over me. She camouflaged power over me as empathy and I misread her signals. We’d meet over weekends and drinks at a pub transitioned into drinking at her home. After one of those binges, we ended up in bed. Now, I never knew I was bisexual and I don’t think I’m even attracted to women that way, but I know she knew what she was doing. The morning after was confusing to me. She pacified me and suggested I let it go as a ‘one off’ and move on. 

Working with her felt awkward. She was patient and wanted me to let time erase the memories. Sure. But it didn’t. 
Her patience began to wear thin. She started sidelining me in meetings and projects and it wasn’t too long before I began hearing hushed rumours about me. None of which mattered because I knew rumours and lies have short legs. 

That’s when Raj (fictional name, ofcourse) joined my team. Being a previously married man who had to fight hard for his divorce, he could cut the animosity in the office with a knife. Gradually, he learned how to separate fact from fiction and we made a good team. 
We’ve been dating each other for the last 4 years and he’s been patient with me. He has learned to deal with my trust issues and we still make a great team. 

But that’s not what this is about. 

Indians have been great at shaming other people.
We wear our hypocrisy on our sleeves and we, childishly, believe shaming another person is the most appropriate punishment/encouragement we can give. Partly because we are on our high-horses all the time and partly because we feel entitled. 

I’ve heard memes and jokes about how parents would shame their sons into doing better than Sharmaji’s son. Daughters, of course need to cook, knit and learn skipping ropes before being sold to the highest bidder when they reach their 20’s. 

We have our priorities terribly mixed up.

India is a country where a woman is raped every 20 minutes.
We have an appalling conviction rate. And even when prosecuted, it is just a matter of money and time, before the rapist will walk free. And one day, even become your legislator. 

India is a country where marital rapes will happen. A fact that has been endorsed by the highest court of the country. 

India is a country where female genital mutilation happens. Google for it. If men were subjected to something even remotely heinous, they would have fought hard to stop this.

India is a country which has states like Kerala. One that talks tall about the sex ratio, their matriarchal society and more. But try walking in a skirt and a T-shirt in Thiruvanthapuram and you will be ogled, bumped into, and groped. It isn’t any different in any other district within the State either. I was once catcalled when cycling within Wayanad. And I wasn’t even alone. 

Our sanitation standards are poor, economical inequality all pervasive, adulteration is rampant in the food we eat and the milk we drink. We can’t seem to get our roads done the way it should. We can’t seem to follow traffic rules for the life of us. We don’t have the political or moral will to treat each other with respect. Yes, there are a lot of issues within India. 

Getting groped, molested, harassed is bad. But so are acid attacks and rapes. 
I know because I’ve been raped, molested, groped and harassed. I’ve also had consensual sex with men and sometimes that was that and we never explored the step ahead. I know colleagues who have had to sleep with men. Sure it was for getting that promotion (which might have never come). But it was definitely consensual at the time she chose to sleep with him. Do you think she should sue him in, say, 10 years from now?
Do you think I should sue all the men and my boss for sexually abusing me? 
The abuse does leave scars but that is why I am in therapy. 

This movement will gain traction. Because none of the men will want to call out the hypocrisy of the women. Doing so will paint a target on their backs. 

Men I speak to are terrified. I know men who have started calling their exes (going back 15 years) just to apologise. They call it ‘I am sorry for hurting you and leading you on’. 
I call it Anticipatory Bail. 

Women on the other hand have got a new weapon. It’s an addition to a repertoire of tools that lakhs of women have used in the past. Case in point: Jasleen Kaur.
Thousands of estranged wives have abused Article 498A and the Domestic Violence Act to exact revenge on their men and his family for many many years.
This revolution is the newest tool in the hands of women who want to take down men. Either because the sex was bad or the outcome was not good enough. 

This movement couldn’t have come at a worse time. We don’t trust our banks, we can’t trust our politicians and now, we won’t trust the opposite sex. 

Women never had it easy in our country. We’ve had to fight for everything we wanted. 
And now, it will be a heck a lot harder.

But then it isn’t only the men who can do all this to women, right?
There are an equal number of ruthless women who do the same to men and other women. Raj was raped by men when he was a child. He was harassed at work by a woman too. 

Shouldn’t we treat crimes against another individual, whether male or female, equally? 
What’s happened to the practice of filing a lawsuit when a crime has happened?
What happens when the accuser is proven wrong? What happens to the person who she/he accused? 

So like I said, men are terrified. And if they’ve abused a woman in any way. They should be. This is the beginning of the end for them.

But women beware. Because if your allegations are false and if the men you accuse could get to the powerful positions they are right now, you can be sure as daylight follows darkness, you will be hunted down and made an example. And unlike Jasleen Kaur, you will not be spared. 
But if what you say is true, more power to you. File a lawsuit if you have enough evidence to back your allegation. Seek therapy for the wounds within. You’ll come through this stronger than ever.

In the meanwhile, the Courts should sit up and take notice. Or else this will be beginning of another sordid saga that will spiral into a social nightmare that will hurt both men and women in ways that we can’t conceive yet.

Sep 14, 2018

13 things they won't tell you when you want to become an UX designer

There are two times in your life when you see the truth. 
Two times when you realise who’s got your back and who’s going to stick that knife on your back.
Two times when you will know who wants you to succeed and who wants to fail you.
  • One, when you lose all your wealth.
  • Two, when you decide to change career.

Over the past several years, I’d been fantasising and preparing for this move. And then one day, the opportunity fell into my lap. I was going to be an UX designer. 
As a writer, I knew there are only a couple of ways I could grow and fortunately none of them really wet my lips the way UX made. 

I’ve met starstruck youngsters who’d give an arm and a leg to be a technical writer. Part of the allure was in the fiction that we lead super glamorous work-lives. A lot of them thought we got paid for nothing. Ofcourse unless you are Dan Bilzarian, that isn’t true.
But that’s a post for another day. 

And then I was beyond thrilled when I was told I’ll be working closely with the UX design team. 

It took me a couple of bad designs to realise how unprepared I was sometimes, and then there were times when it felt natural. 

This post could be a good starting point for those looking to dip their toes into UX. 
  • Read. Perceive. Explore. Learn: As I’ve always said, the best designs are invisible. Devour information. Translate ideas. Learn. Create. Dream. Think. Do.
  • Become a people-person : If you aren’t one already (or if you are an introvert), then this could possibly be the wrong boat. 
  • Buddy up: There can’t be a substitute for a great mentor. Stay open to criticism and feedback until you find your design voice. And maybe even after as well. Through it all, ask a million questions, unlearn, and learn.
  • Push yourself : Sure its exciting to see those rounded shapes and colours bring your creations to life. Mark my words: Your designs will be rejected/challenged/critiqued/straight-up discarded. Your success will hinge on how excited and grounded you remain after all the rejections. 
  • Never be cocky : After meeting enough cocky designers who pay lip service to mentoring newbies, I can’t underline this sufficiently. Promise yourself that you’ll remember your first faltering steps so that you won’t be that pretentious veteran to a newbie in a few years from now.
  • Humble yourself : I’ll leave the interpretation open. A very important virtue and a vital followup on the previous statement. Your designs are only as good as your users think they are. 
  • Stay confident : This could be contradictory to what I just said, but you’ll have to believe you have what it takes to design intuitive interactions even when the brickbats come flying in. It is okay to doubt yourself. Go walk it off and come back with renewed resolve.
  • Create multiple design iterations : Pro tip - When you begin, it’ll be difficult to think of multiple design layouts for the same screen. But make it a habit and you’ll become versatile. 
  • Keep it tight : As you learn and grow, remember to make an inventory of everything you’ve done. Document. Record. Reuse. You’ll thank yourself for being organised and systematic.
  • Paddle like a duck. Glide like a duck : Deadlines could be tight. There will be whimsical requests and adhoc demands. Keep calm and glide on.
  • Be patient on purpose : I know this is beginning to sound like a page off the manual for Monks, but yes, you’ll need to be patient, persistent, and purposeful. 
  • Have problems. Solve them : This is the heart of every great invention and useful design. Keep a pocket notebook and pen handy. You’ll never know when inspiration will strike. 
  • Love your Job. Get a life : Blame it on a society that worships performance over quality, I think it’s important to have a healthy work/life balance. You don’t want to end up peaking too early. Sometimes, you’ll have tons of work to do, sometimes none. Learn to say ‘No’.

Many times, prospective employers would ask me ‘Why did you jump from being a writer to design?’. I would reply ‘Why not? These are the same things I’d tell an aspiring writer.’ ‘Design isn’t very different from writing. When you create a manual, you do the same things you’d do when you’re creating a design - Interview, research, iterate, review, deliver. Repeat. ‘

Again, this is by no means the perfect list of what you need to do, but things I wish someone would have told me when I started. 
So here, it is - Enshrine the process. Love the process. Succeed. 
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