Using it to hold space for myself and strengthen my voice

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Mariam Soliman on Unsplash

“I’ve not spoken to Mariyam in over six months,” was my cousin’s reply to my mother over a general call. Before I could say why this was, my sister said to our mother, the cousin usually discusses her child, and my mother replied, “Well, she is raising a child, so that is what she will talk about. Girls are doing everything now a days. Taking care of a family, raising children, managing a job, and spending time on their hobbies. It is what all women do.”

My mother was subtly implying that unlike other women, I wasn’t doing enough in life. In all probability, she was judging me for choosing a single life, a job and various other passions, sans marriage, sans motherhood. I chose silence in that moment, rather than justify my choices. …

Being okay in not ticking all items off the list

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

I woke up this morning in a state of confusion. My mind rattled at the thought of to-do-items pending, even before the day had started. As I began writing them down, new items appeared. By the time I finished, there were already three extra chores on the list. As I write this blog at the end of the day, two items remain pending, waiting to be struck out by the stroke of accomplishment.

Which makes me wonder, what is the reason behind wanting to finish off all the tasks of the day? It’s a short spell of victory that will be overtaken with a new list tomorrow morning. Interestingly, rather than the checked-off items, the unchecked ones are the constants in my life. …

Taking care of your mental health involves failing to do so too

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It was an early weekday morning in August, when I sent an email to my manager titled: Burnout/Leave. I remember waking up after having a work-related dream, and feeling overtly drained despite the 8-hour sleep. It seemed to me that my mind had forgotten to turn work-mode off, even when it needed to. My body felt limp, mind numb and breathing shallow. My manager replied, saying “happy to let you take some time-off.” Finally, I took an entire week off from work, earlier this month. Contrary to my expectations, my mind apparently did not receive the leave memo.

The first morning of the leave, I was feeling relaxed and up about the day. Two hours later, all my anxieties had decided to sit beside me, while I sat on the floor waiting for the coffee to brew. By mid-week, I was struggling to keep my mind away from work-related dreams and thoughts. My fingers ached to check work email and get back on slack. If not work, my mind began racing towards finding other avenues to ‘seize the day’. …

Diversity and inclusion is not an option on the table, it is the only way to rebuild the ‘new normal’

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

I was a panelist at this year’s Lloyd’s annual Dive In Festival : that aims to bring more diverse and inclusive (D&I) practices within corporate workspaces across the globe. The panel session aimed at highlighting the unconscious biases that we continue following within our offices and how can we identify them. This post highlights some of the key points from that session.

  1. Diversity and Inclusion is still considered altruism

One of the challenges of D&I continues to be token representation. We have women on the board members or members from marginalised communities appointed to positions, only to look great on paper. The decision-making power still rests with the few men at the top. …

watch it today

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

I’m going to be employing the algorithms that got you on my Medium profile to watch \the social dilemma.

The Netflix documentary has brought some of the best minds that worked at companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and others, to help the viewers understand the psychologically-manipulative, fake news rabbit holes we’ve gotten ourselves into, and their devastating impact on our futures.

As Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Center For Humane Technology states, “With technology, you don’t have to overwhelm people’s strengths. You just have to overwhelm their weaknesses. This is overpowering human nature. …

Image for post
Image for post
Image credit: @mariyamhaider19 on Instagram

09.20 am. I am introduced to the silence of Eid today, for the first time in my life. A silence induced by the pandemic-imposed restrictions with not a birdsong in the air, almost as if the morning creatures have sensed the human warnings too. My phone lies awfully quiet, being in Singapore means my family and friends in India, are still asleep. Silent mode OFF; in a very long time, I want to hear mobile notifications. I walk from my bedroom to the kitchen, almost picking up the kettle to boil water, only to stop myself and say, “Today’s Eid. Unwind. Do not systemise yourself on a holiday.” I place the kettle down, pick up a biscotti from the fresh batch prepared last night, and crunch into it, my morning snack. Drop myself on the couch, check my phone again, and listen to a 3 min audio message from a cousin, who is grieving her lost mother. Spending Eid without her mother for the first time in her 31 years, today will be especially cruel to her. I write back with a prayer for her. Decide to make chickpea curry, just like my mum does, and set them to boil in a pressure cooker. Lose interest halfway. Will order chicken biryani instead. A quick wardrobe trial of last year’s kurta reveals tightened sleeves, ditch it for a dress instead. Maybe shaving my legs will brighten this day. The house is still quiet. Spotify is uninspiring. The press cooker’s whistle is tiring. Coffee. Black with a dash of milk, gulped down with another sheermal biscotti. 11 am. Cancelling the zoom Eid lunch. Instagram is kind. I share a note on IG for everyone having a pandemic-defeated-Eid, but instead, it’s for me. I want to re-read it. Emboss it in my mind. A dear friend reads my IG post but refuses to take my calls. She’s the only one I feel like talking today. Same storm, same boat, syndrome. 12.20 pm. The biryani arrives. Phone’s notifications are clearing the air for the morning’s isolation misgivings. A ruse, nonetheless. Video might be a requirement. Should take a shower. Be prepared to smile and celebrate. …

[Spoiler alert: Do not read if you haven’t watched the film].

Image for post
Image for post
Image credits: NYT / Neon

Years ago, my grandmother handed a bar of soap to the cleaning lady at our home, as she was leaving after work. The lady smiled smugly as she took the soap, being reminded of the odour she brought into the home. My grandmother hoped the soap would resolve the situation, but the solution was short-lived. She and her unique smell were inseparable.

Humans have unique ways of storing memories, and our sensations are the strongest triggers to bring alive the past. When I think of our cleaning lady now, I can clearly picture her in synthetic sarees, their borders crinkled by dirt. The glass bingles would jingle on her bony arms, golden hoops dangling in her ear lobes that sag like a rooster’s wattle. She took swift steps in blue and white rubber chappals, the heels worn out by the pressures of walking. She knew where the dustpans and mops were, and how to navigate the home. As she cleaned room after room, we would light incense sticks to diffuse the mixture of the smells emanating from them. …

by Mariyam Haider

Image for post
Image for post
Image Credit: Gabrielle Rocha-Rios for Centre For Feminist Foreign Policy

In my mother’s womb

I grew

Arms. Legs

Body. Mind

Heart. Soul

Taking shape

Taking form

Only to learn

That every space I enter

Is given on lease to me

Subject to my body

Born a woman

A room. I must seek permission

To enter

A bed. I must honour the man

I sleep with

A street. I must pay respects

Fully clothed

A future. I must validate

Before dreaming

Breathe, breathe it all in

Stick yourself to the wall

Shrink yourself to the size of a keyhole

So small, that even you cannot find your reflection

in the…

The pandemic could help women lead freer lives unlike before

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

“I don’t remember the last time I walked out of the house or wore a bra,” I claimed to my friend over a call last weekend. She chimed in and said, “Me either.” We both smiled in the comforting delight brought on by bra-free days.

While COVID-19 has forced us all into our homes, women especially, seem to have finally been freed off wearing the hideous thing called a bra. …

Coronavirus has changed the way we communicate professionally

Image for post
Image for post

I have never counted, but 30 is the ballpark number of emails I write and respond to in a given workday. These emails are written to colleagues, clients, new business leads, and nearly 20% of them to people with whom I’ve never met. Being an official channel, you keep the discussion dignified and succinct. Niceties are limited to wishing each other relaxing weekends and happy public holidays or congratulating achievements.

As time-bound, sugar-driven workers, we rarely give our email conversations more time than we can afford before moving on to the next one. As a result, we don’t know much about the other person’s day or life, we only say enough to keep business in motion. COVID-19 has changed that. The pandemic is now the common denominator that has affected each one of us. …


Mariyam Haider

Reading. Writing. And then, reading some more. Selected works:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store