How to overcome challenges when a wife earns more than her husband

When Sandeep Mulay Kumar and his wife were investing in a property in Bengaluru, his mother found out that he was paying less than his spouse Pramitha Ramaprakash because he was earning less than her.

“My mother took me into a corner and told me quietly that the fact that I’m earning less than my wife shouldn’t go out of the family,” laughs the 38-year-old, while explaining how truly entrenched the patriarchal concept of men being the primary breadwinners is when it comes to Indian families.

Her salary is higher

The first time in 2011, when Ramaprakash got a higher salary, Kumar admits that it did bruise his ego a bit. “Pramitha had quit her job after our marriage and moved to the UK because of my career. Six months later, she finds a job, two hours away from my office, and she has been offered more money than I earn,” says Kumar.

Being from a family, where his father had been the decision-maker, for a few honest minutes, he did wonder what his family and friends would say. However, later he accepted that it was money they were collectively earning. The couple moved to be closer to Ramaprakash’s office. “It was easier for me to do this as we were living independently, in the UK, away from parental pressure,” says Kumar. “In India it would have been more difficult to move cities for my wife’s job.”

Breaking stereotypes

Marriage, and after that childcare, according to a survey by National Sample Survey of India for 2011-2012, is one of the most common reasons for women to drop out of jobs in India. In 2011, around 50% of unmarried women in the 15-60 age bracket were in the labour force, while the proportion for married women was a mere 20%. The trend is more prominent in rural than urban women, as couples with white-collar jobs can outsource housework, childcare and eldercare—mostly seen as a woman’s job after marriage.

Sharing household and childcare work is the only way that 34-year-old Tripti Abhijata could continue to work as a full-time manager in a company in Switzerland. As she joined office back after her son was born, Rajan Thambehalli, her 34-year-old husband, took care of the house and of their three-year-old, starting his own company for quizzing.

Before having a child, both Abhijata and Thambehalli, were pursuing their own careers—Thambehalli as a consultant travelling around in Europe and Abhijata in Switzerland. After a child, moving frequently wasn’t possible. “We decided that we would move to the location of the spouse who gets a stable job first. It happened to be me,” explains Abhijata. In 2013, Thambehalli quit his job as a consultant, started his career afresh, ending up in “mom meetings”, she says.

Bengaluru-based Sandeep Mulay Kumar and Pramitha Ramaprakash are also comfortable with the difference in their salaries.
Bengaluru-based Sandeep Mulay Kumar and Pramitha Ramaprakash are also comfortable with the difference in their salaries.
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‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

The Non-Tantrik Department was crawling with all kinds of pashus and mayans, who might have arrived here at night and now waited for their stamped pieces of paper to get into the city. Rakshasas, yakshas, dasyus, looked at me with lazy eyes, unseeing and disinterested, waiting for their name to be called. I stepped over a half-eaten dog lying next to a chandaali, who slept with her hand cuffed to the wall, and walked on. Madhu followed, gasping at something every now and then.

‘What are these creatures?’

Madhu asked me, as we walked along the corridor with damp and filthy walls, a layer of grease splattered on them. The corridor stank of piss and shit and was littered with enough cups, broken plastic bottles, pieces of clothes, bones and stale food to almost hide the tiles of the floor.

‘Immigrants from outside the city, waiting for a passport from the immigration o office,’ I replied.

‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

‘Hah,” I said. “The Indian government doesn’t recognize them. The tantriks who do, want them to get immigration stamps if they come in highly concentrated human spaces like cities. Which is where the immigration office comes in. Without the papers and a human identity, the supernaturals can be arrested and put into the Tantrik Authority’s rotten prisons.’

The Immigration Department was a sham created for the sole purpose of bringing all sups under the control of tantriks. Before CAT had been created, cities were free spaces where any sup could move to. As long as they didn’t reveal themselves to the humans. But now, with the recent creation of the association, things had been getting organized.

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Laid off from your job? It need not be a problem

Getting laid off is not the end of the world. Turn it into an opportunity.

In September 2016, Sangita Mukherjee was called by her manager into his office and told that due to restructuring of the company, certain positions had become redundant and she was told to resign from her job the same day.

“I had been in the company for 10 years in the administration department and had been performing well,” says the 42-year-old, “When I was told that I was being laid off, I was devastated.” Overnight, she was out of a job with financial responsibilities like an EMI for a home loan and her daughter’s education. Mukherjee says it took her a long time to come to terms with it.

Lay-offs are not personal

They can happen to anyone, even people like Mukherjee who have been performing well. One needs to understand this, explains Ajay Shah, vice president and head of recruitment services at TeamLease Services, a staffing firm. Shah has helped both individuals and companies during lay-offs, and has seen a pattern emerge over the years.

“People lose their jobs because of company restructuring or closure of a certain business and not because of their personal performance, abilities or skills,” he says, adding that it’s important to be positive and work to turn a lay-off into an opportunity.

Find support

According to a report released by RiseSmart, an outplacement and career transition management firm, earlier this year, in which 1,000 executives were interviewed, it was found that letting go of employees is pretty common both in big and small companies, especially in dynamic markets like the IT sector.

Responsible organizations hire outplacement services to help the laid off employees land another job. “Outplacement services are paid for by the employers to benefit employees impacted by a lay-off or company restructuring to help them land their next job quickly,” says Joel Paul, general manager, RiseSmart India. The job of such teams is to match an individual with a career coach, resume writer, etc.

istock

For San Francisco-based Ritu Favre, the outplacement service turned out to be a boon as she hadn’t actively looked for a job in more than a decade. In the middle of 2016, when Favre was with her previous company in San Francisco, she found out that the organization was going through a restructuring. Lay-offs were part of the plan, including her position as a senior manager which would become redundant.

“Leaving a known company is scary. I had never been unemployed in the 20 plus years of my career; being laid off was overwhelming,” she says.

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Eurocon: How I got interviewed by French media

During my visit to Eurocon 2018, I met a French lady in a corner. I was quickly stuffing my stroller and getting ready to talk about Indian fantasy.

She juggled with equipment. We got talking. She turned out to be a TV journalist from a French webzine ActuSF and I invited her for the talk I was about to give.

And that’s how I got interviewed by Samantha. I had no experience of talking while being translated and how to learn how to stop my thoughts. It was funny.

Also read, Five lessons I learnt at Eurocon.

(Thankful to Thomas for his patience with me!)

New job? Here’s how to make new friends.

New job? When it comes to building relationships with Indian colleagues, it’s food that matters the most, according to Mumbai-based operations manager Neha Thadani. Three years ago, when Thadani joined her current company, an MNC based in Mumbai, the newness of the office was overwhelming. “It was a disconcerting experience,” says the 35-year-old, “I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know how things worked, so I decided to change that with food.”

Sweeten your new colleagues

Every day, she would bring something new to office, sweet or savoury, and made it a point to walk across to a couple of colleagues at mid-morning, introduce herself and offer them snacks. “Most people took a breather, talked about what kind of food they loved, and this camaraderie continued as our personal conversations started,” says Thadani.

The initial hesitation over, within a week, her colleagues were inviting her for coffee breaks in the evening, or for lunch, introducing her to others. Within a month, Thadani knew a lot of people in her office, from top management to her juniors, and could find someone to help her out if she was stuck in her work. “Because of food, I could find the human side to the managers and bosses in my office, and connect to them beyond the work they gave me,” says Thadani, something that she feels has helped her tremendously throughout her jobs.

Build relationships anew

Building relationships at work are as important as the tasks the employees have been hired for, according to Neharika Vohra, professor (organizational behaviour), Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. “Relationships are the glue that binds tasks and teams, so they need to be paid attention to,” she says. In the beginning it is best to observe, understand and recognize the pattern of networks within your workplace. “Take initiative to reach out to people, help someone with something you can offer, show people that you are interested in them,” adds Vohra.

Sathappan S. says being interested in how other people work is a great way to break the ice
Sathappan S. says being interested in how other people work is a great way to break the ice
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Mattreya’s claw-like left hand sank into the vampire’s neck

Mattreya’s claw-like left hand rose again and sank deep into the vampire’s neck. There was a collective cry. Those who had been standing too close to the stage were splattered with blood.

There was a second’s silence. Everyone started to clap in unison. A monster had been destroyed. Nobody seemed to care that it was another monster that had done it.

‘This is what iMagic can do for you.

‘Destroy all the evil in your path. Conquer the universe so that nothing can come in your way,’ said Vajrin

I couldn’t quite see the connection between killing a vampire and owning a device, but it definitely left the crowd on a high note. The Vama picked up the head of the vampire by its hair and showed it to the audience. They cheered and clapped.

‘Mattreya! Mattreya! Mattreya!’

The vampire’s body lay on the stage, wilting in plain sight as blood gushed from it. Someone behind me retched. I turned around to find Dakini throwing up over her stilettos.

‘Why the hell would someone do this in a civilized party,’ she bellowed when she regained her voice. She wiped the puke from her face. ‘I think I will leave right—’

‘HOW DARE YOU DO THIS?’

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What is expertise economy?

Are you ready for the expertise economy? Constant upskilling and gaining expertise beyond education is the millennial way to work.

At the age of 25, Gautam Soni, who works as a business analyst at LinkedIn in Bengaluru, has already pivoted twice in his career. After graduating, he did not find a job immediately and tried his hand as a digital media consultant. Two years later, he become interested in data science and pursued a post-graduation diploma with UpGrad, an online course and certification site, investing all his savings into it.

While completing the course, he joined LinkedIn India in operations. He was encouraged to apply his learning on the operations role and in a few months, moved to business analysis, getting a 75% salary hike. “In jobs today, we face new challenges on a daily basis and it’s very important to stay updated and possess the right skill-set,” says Soni.

Soni’s experience captures work life in the age of digitization and acceleration where the world of work is going through a large-scale transition and critical skills and expertise are imperative for success. “New platforms, technologies and ways of business are sprouting constantly,” says Kelly Palmer, co-author of The Expertise Economy, “Businesses and employees need to make sure they have expertise to make these changes work for them. The career path of a future employee focuses on skill development rather than college pedigree,” she explains.

Prateek Benya says upskilling is required – be it through learning from someone in your own company or taking up a course. Photo: Saisen/Mint

Forward thinking companies have already restructured their process in such a way that employees have the choice, and freedom to decide what expertise they want to develop. For startups like 75F, a company that makes efficient buildings using internet of things and cloud computing, upskilling is a necessity to remain competitive in a fast changing, dynamic market.

“From our CEO to a new intern, every employee in our workforce has to stay at pace with technology,” says Oindri Sengupta, HR head, 75F India. “This is why we prioritize learning and development and invest in our people to upskill.” Every new employee goes through an intensive training program and then continues updating themselves through in-house libraries, online courses, industry-relevant certifications and training programs.

The value of an individual today lies in the knowledge and skills he or she brings to an employer or an organization and millennials recognize this, says Lisa Cannell, MD and leadership professor at Darden School of Business in University of Virginia, US in an email interview. This new wave has changed how employees view their careers.

“Millennials now value skill building and development opportunities within a job as much as compensation. If they don’t get required training from companies, they find courses to reskill themselves.”

Lisa Cannell, MD and leadership professor at Darden School of Business in University of Virginia
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Can I fight for equal rights without being labelled a ‘feminist’?

More time is wasted on demeaning the term ‘feminist’ than on understanding and accepting it. Hear me out.

The first time I came across the word ‘feminism’ was in the first week of being at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi. I’d just joined the Bachelors in English and a teacher introduced the class to the feminist ideology, talking about how the social constructs of patriarchy were a way to silence the female gender.

As an impressionable student, I imagined her with a flamed sword, chopping down the shackles of patriarchy our lives were contained in. Outside the class, I asked this teacher if she was married. She said yes. “Ma’am, if you’re a feminist, how can you live with a man?”

The oft misunderstood feminist

Like many others, the presumptuous 17-year-old me had misunderstood the word and done it grave injustice. According to the dictionary, the word ‘feminist’ refers to ‘an advocate of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’. But when I heard it first, I twisted its meaning and made it more about gender wars rather than striving for equality.

Within this anecdote lies my lifelong struggle with the word. (The word, mind you, not the ideology, before you sharpen your Twitter swords at me.) In India, as elsewhere, the word ‘feminist’ is taken into an alternative universe, twisted and turned into a swear word.

Would you use the F-word?

In a dramatic scene in my tantric series, a man calls Anantya Tantrist, the protagonist of the novel, a feminist. It’s not a word of appreciation but used in a slattern way, to put down, as an expletive. Anantya springs out her boneblade, slaps it onto his neck and whispers: “Don’t use the F-word.” Though the dialogue was published as it is in the Indian edition, it was red-flagged by a US-based literary agent.

The moot point: Why would Anantya, a feminist in all manners of behaviour and character, someone who fights against the rigidly patriarchal tantric society, have a problem with being called a feminist? For that’s what she is, isn’t she?

This is not something dramatically new. If there was a dictionary parallel, the term ‘feminist’ in our country would imply not someone who believes in equality but someone who is a ‘feminazi’, a radical feminist, a man-hater, a sexist out to destroy the other gender(s) by not shaving their armpits and not wearing bras. The politest version of its meaning I’ve heard here, unless you’re in academic living rooms, is the quietly sarcastic ‘Oh, you are the feminist type’. with an understanding nod of sudden revelation.

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How to do a steady job with a part-time startup

What are part-time startups and why are millennials doing them?

Since June 2017, Bengaluru-based Saswati Suchipadma has led a hectic life. She is a full-time technology consultant in a multinational company and runs a handmade jewellery start-up. “I have meetings with clients in the US, and deadlines both at office and with my personal business clients,” says the 26-year-old. “All my free time during weekdays and weekends goes into designing jewellery and marketing my brand over Facebook and WhatsApp.”

It’s like keeping two jobs together, says Suchipadma. However she doesn’t want to quit either. “My technology job is what I studied for and the start-up is my passion, what my mother taught me,” she says, “and now I’ve learnt to manage both together efficiently.” Her manager at work has also accepted the start-up since her work hasn’t suffered. In addition, Suchipadma feels being in a job is actually good for the start-up as she gets more clients for her jewellery designs.

Riding in two boats

A whopping 90% of Indian start-ups fail within the first five years, according to a study titled Entrepreneurial India by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics in mid-2016. The most common reason for failure, according to the study, is lack of a unique business model and new technology.

Gurugram-based Aparajita Roy, a 28-year-old photographer and corporate trainer, is happy managing a start-up and a job while she learns more. “I am from a middle-class background and want financial stability in my venture before I quit my job,” she says.

Since five years, Roy has been working as a corporate trainer in a UK-based financial firm. Her start-up, an event planning and photography venture, began a little more than a year ago. The going has been good with 15 clients in one year, but not good enough for Roy to quit her job. “A full-time job guarantees regular pay and being in a corporate environment exposes me to a lot of business and networking tactics,” says Roy.

Your job can teach you how to run a business

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You realise she’s a female?

‘You realize she’s a female?’ asked Lord Qubera, his long golden eyelashes fluttering on his fleshy cheeks as he blinked. I cringed, wishing I had sunglasses. As with the eyelashes, the rest of Qubera’s bulk was covered in gold bling. Rings, medallions, necklaces, bracelets, you name it, he was wearing it.

He looked like a walking, talking pawnshop.

Even the wave-like pattern etched on his chest, which was part of the binding ritual that let the daeva’s spirit inhabit the fat human body, was tattooed in gold.‘She’s the best, O Rider of Men,’ answered Grrhat, who stood before Qubera with his back towards me.He bowed deliberately so that his tight butt almost touched my nose.

He had changed into his favoured guise, a black muscular body and a regal silver-embroidered coat. I would have been aroused if I did not have other things on my mind. For one, my hands were tied behind my back with mayan rope to ensure I couldn’t mumble a mantra.

Then, I was still dressed in the tatters of what used to be a beautiful dress and, of course, my body smelt of yaksha poop. And, believe me, I could have ignored all those things but for the fact that I was in what could only be termed…

…a humongous jewellery box.

Qubera’s office had turned out to be a swanky newly constructed building behind Lodhi Gardens. But even the gold frills on all the windows and doors of the building couldn’t have prepared me for what the yaksha warriors, who escorted me in, called the ‘Grand Hall’ – a monstrosity of hundreds of richly engraved golden pillars, in the centre of which was a pond.

I wasn’t sure if the hall was underground or on one of the upper floors of the building because I hadn’t been able to sense the direction in which the elevator had gone, but about this there was no doubt: it was glaring gaudiness of gigantic proportions. We sat on a jewel-encrusted raft gently floating in the pool. Opulently dressed yakshas and yakshis – palm-sized forest creatures – fluttered all around, some singing, some dusting, some spraying perfume.

‘But … but, she has breasts and a fertility hole.

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