Thursday, March 24, 2011

Of Graduation Days and Emotions

So during the week of organizing International Women's Day event and taking ownership to lead the Women's Diversity Group at work, there was yet another day when I was doing some kind of hosting, addressing the crowd and generally glowing in 2 two seconds of fame :-)

You remember I wrote about N's first school in life a while ago and how I loved it? Infact I think I wrote several posts on her at that school (check here and here). Well, they called me to *ahem ahem* be the chief guest at their graduation and annual day this year. I was shocked to say the least since this has never ever happenned to me before. I mean chief guest!!? Really? Am I that old or distinguished enough? Or am I famous or well connected enough? They surely have mistaken me for someone else I thought. Or maybe they couldn't rope in anyone on their A list and so I was their fall back option. So I tried telling them they should get a more influential person and what not but they wouldn't budge. They wanted it to be a parent, someone who knows the school more closely and thought I would be best since I had always supported them over the last couple of years.

So there I was! Supposed to come up with a speech, address the crowd, watch the cute little babies perform on stage and hand over graduation certificates to the cute little ones. I was touched. Ofcourse I wanted to do it. So I thought and thought about what I could tell these parents, grandparents and relatives who will be attending that day and most of whom I was sure would be older and wiser than me. Did some research online...just looking for graduation day ideas and came across this beautiful song that inspired me to pen all my thoughts down.

I decided that THIS was going to be my key message. I took inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg's video that I posted here since I was to give a talk without looking at any powerpoint slides out here. There would be no fancy conference room or a laptop going through my slide deck or anything. So I had to say what I had to say as if coming to me naturally and fill it with real life incidents. And I thought Sandberg did a great job at that in the video. Not easy for me to do this after spending years and years in the corporate world doing presentations with the aid of slides, notes or powerpoint decks. Kinda reminded me of school days when we would "by-heart" our poems or speeches and have to narrate :-) What would life be without technology....sigh!

Anyways, I digress. So I wrote and wrote till I poured my heart out on paper (well...electronic paper I must say) and decided that I'd end my talk with this above mentioned song. I'd let them listen to how beautifully it describes what I was trying to say and let their eyes moisten up too like mine did when I first heard it.

But then there came another contestant. A song that I have always, always loved and has never failed to make me teary eyed. A song that is sooooooo appropriate for a parent to sing for his/her child....that talks about our aspirations, hopes and prayers for our children. A song I have always wanted to sing for my daughter.

Sigh...not just the words but the picturization is also sooooo touching. Tough choice I tell you. I played both these songs for my little N over the week, slept on it, tried to reach a decision on which one I should tailor my talk towards and which one should be the conclusion of my talk. Finally after a lot of listening to these over and over again....on my laptop...on my my sleep even...I decided I'd stick with the former...the song that started it all. After all that was the song that got me started on my writing and helped me put together a very nice message for the audience.

So that's what I did on the morning of March 12. I got up bright and early, got ready, kissed my lovely daughter and hubby goodbye (they had plans to spend a nice lazy, cozy Saturday morning at home) and took the ipod and ipod dock to Kinder Kare Playschool and immersed myself in the children. I had such a good time watching them perform without the anxiety of waiting for my little one to come on stage and worrying whether she would look at me and cry or dance! I was amazed to see that not a single one cried this year unlike last year when my lil N was doing the performance on that same stage but burst into tears when she was being handed over the graduation certificate. Too emotional I tell ya! They then welcomed me, said some really nice words about me and a small girl maybe 3.5 years old welcomed me with a lovely bouquet. It was such a pleasure spending the morning with them very unlike how I spent my own daughter's graduation day this year at the other Montessori she is going to. That was a nail biting, tear wiping, stressful event and is probably matter for another post in itself. After spending months practicing her dances at school, the little child was in tears when she was finally put on the stage on their Annual Day. And I don't really blame her coz the kids were taken to a totally different venue, a brand new place and room, a brand new stage where they have never been before and asked to perform. With NO prior mental preparation whatsoever. How would you expect a 3 or 4 year old to do something as humongous without any mental preparation whatsoever? This same child of mine performed much better last year when she was at here at Kinder Kare though she was 1 whole year younger! It is all about preparing and conditioning these little ones I say. Anyways, many other small things that could have been paid more attention to. But that was just Annual Day. There are other good things that this Montessori is doing very well which is why I am happy she is going there for another year.

Overall, this one incident of me going back to her previous school made me think how much I miss staying connected with her school. If I were in the US, I swear I would be so much more involved with her school. It is so normal and kind of expected for parents to stay involved in running the co-operative schools there in the US. I mean everything including volunteering to coach football (or any other sport) or leading a committee to organize other co-curricular activities, etc. Whereas in India, in most schools, parent involvement is neither offered nor encouraged. Pretty sad isn't it? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

I had the privilege of organizing the Women's Day celebrations at my company this year and as part of the various sessions I helped facilitate during this event today, I wanted to share one that I really really liked. It is a talk held by Sheryl Sandberg who is the COO of Facebook. She talks about why there are very few women leaders in the world today and delivers 3 key messages that I am sure most of us women who are or have been in the corporate world can relate to. You can see her talk here. If clicking on my link does not work, you can point your browser to go to

By the way when I was approached to lead the Women's Day event at work this year, I wasn't sure I believed in the cause or the day in itself. Coz the fact that we have a special day for women itself highlights the fact that we consider ourselves second citizens in need for special attention. But then a colleague shared his perspective which started to make sense in my mind. He said that when we work with a team of mixed genders, we do not necessarily think differently when talking to a woman or a man. Neither do women in today's corporate world think I am a woman so this is how I work and this is how it is different from a man's way of working. Nope. The only reason we may encourage forming a diversity group for women is because women in general have a unique set of challenges (that may be due to several reasons or factors such as society, upbringing, family, etc.) which they need to overcome if they want to stay ahead in the corporate world. That is why such diversity groups or earmarked days are beneficial so that they can relate to each other and use it like a support group to help each other overcome these challenges.

Do check out Sheryl's video and let me know what you think!