Inexorable allure of (grocery) shopping!

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 7:42 PM
As a woman trapped in a quagmire of no job or kids, you learn to find solace in the softer pursuits of life. Vanilla things like apartment decoration, shopping to expand your clothing (and shoes) wardrobe, being an extensive part of other people's lives and happiness... and of course, being in the supermarket. The allure of those grandly-lit, bright and inviting shelves stocked up with a huge variety of utilitarian products and produce. Every time you feel the urge to spend, but don't have enough cash to splurge on fashion, you enter - the supermarket!

For me, its a mid-way option between not shopping at all and spending excessively on fashion that will (as the name suggests), go out-of-fashion soon. Grocery shopping is the fence-sitter's vent to spending without feeling guilty (because the purchases will eventually be used around the house). It still allows you to swipe that credit card, without feeling like you just burnt an unnecessary hole in your husband's pocket.

In my household, grocery shopping is a task specifically reserved for me. Primarily because of two reasons - one, it lets me be in control of the products and brands that enter my house. And two, because it fulfils my basic need of shopping as a lady. Multiple trips to the supermarket to pick up one item at a time (like a $2 carton of milk) has kept me from spending hundreds of dollars on fashion. That would be a selfish buy to temporarily excite my inner-demon who always wants to look good.

America is a very consumer-centric market. If you have cash, the economy will give you at least 2000 ways to spend it, without even leaving your house (phone servicing, smartphone apps, Amazon, virtual online showrooms). Ever since I have arrived here, my mailbox (real AND digital) has been overflowing with discount offers from my favorite stores (Francesca's, Victoria's Secret, etc. - guess they found my address from my Cosmopolitan subscription). Sales seem to go on throughout the year and the allure to purchase is almost impossible to resist. Models wearing smashing pastels and sunglasses are thronging my vision through the spring catalogues and brochures that have already found a way inside my mailbox. Given all the incentive, I have to resort to grocery shopping to curb the natural instinct to buy.

In retrospect, my biggest fashion binges have centred around the years that I have spent working. If its my own money, I don't think twice before buying that LV bag that looks so crisp and professional. Problem starts when I am playing the role of a dependent. With a husband that barely even raises an eyebrow to my impulsive shopping, my inner moral instincts kick me harder each time I decide to please myself with shopping.

So all you women out there, if you have limited depth in your pocket (which would be most of us - considering you also worry about 'menial' things like savings and retirement) but an overriding impulse to purchase, try the magic formula of grocery shopping! It will keep you in the market, you still get to experience retail therapy by browsing the huge shelves and working to get to your item, you also still get to spend a few bucks and swipe that card - WITHOUT the flood of guilt at the end of it all. This arrangement works all too well to postpone that next big, expensive fashion buy. Until a sunnier day!


The Pushkar Syndrome

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 4:11 AM
Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor’s wife, Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, was recently found dead in Delhi’s posh Leela Hotel. The incident happened after a public spat between Sunanda Tharoor and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over the latter’s alleged ‘stalking’ of Shashi  Tharoor. After the war broke out on Twitter, and between the day that Sunanda allegedly committed suicide, she gave a bunch of television interviews about what went into the making of the all-out spat. Clearly upset over the accusations of spoiling her husband’s career with her constant shenanigans, Sunanda might have decided to end her life (and I say ‘might’ because whether it was a suicide still hasn’t been proven and the needle of suspicion hangs on her influential husband Shashi Tharoor).

This is not just Sunanda’s story. Scores of women have given up their successful careers and bright lives to play accomplice to their husband’s achievements and success. Some are fortunate to have men who do not stray, but alas, some others bear the brunt of the indiscretions of their men. I am not, however, suggesting that Sunanda did the right thing by committing suicide. I mean why rid the man so easily of his crimes by ending your own life? Heard of nasty divorces and hefty alimonies, anyone? Remarriage too and living a normal life. But the larger point that I am trying to make is that women seem to get the rough end of the deal in case a marriage falls apart due to infidelities (committed by either side). If lord forbid their husbands decide to cheat on them in a ‘weak moment of temptation’, some take it so hard that it ends the way the third-time marriage fairytale ended for Mrs Tharoor.

The saga leaves no strata of women untouched. Talking about the rich and the famous – the category to which Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor belonged to – former players include Hillary Clinton (survived the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky sex scandal), Huma Abedin (wife of American politician and infamous ‘sexter’ Anthony Weiner), Elin Nordengren (Tiger Wood’s wife) and most recently Valerie Trierweiler (the French President’s wife). The list includes many more and goes on to prove that wealth and fame are no safeguards against the feeble minds of men. Further, there are more layers of women involved in this mental form of injustice. Think about the category of the bored middle class. Tired of their routine lives, they seek solace outside their home with the petty premise of jigging up their world. When their indiscretions come to light, someone has to pay the price. And this price is most often paid by the women. In the poor world, these things are more commonplace and rampant. In some cases, wife is the sole breadwinner too and still faces adultery and constant verbal & physical abuse.

So why do Sunanda’s of the world have to lose their lives? To put it narrowly, why do smart and intelligent women wrap their lives around their husband’s little finger? Why do they seek joy in their joys and sadness and in their sorrows and forget what defines them as individuals, separate from the logistics of their husband’s life? Why do they cover up their husband’s crimes (the IPL scandal in Sunanda’s case) and why do they decide to pick up fights with other women wrecking their marriage instead of first sorting out things at home? Conversely, another way to think about this is, why do men give acknowledgements in the form of ‘To the love of my life, and the life of my love, Sunanda’ on the first pages of their books (Tharoor’s Pax Indica) to their ‘beloved’ wives and then give them so much reason to worry? They are fully at fault for first leading their wives into believing that they are ‘the one’ and then letting their interest get weaned away by the endless lusts of the world.

How difficult is it to stay faithful anyway? And if for some reason, the object of your affection changes, how difficult is it to call it quits before jumping on to your next bandwagon of (flimsy) trust? Why do people not see the merits of simplifying and de-cluttering their lives? How do some women manage to stay in rotten marriages for the sake of their societal status or kids? When did the world we live in get so hostile and unbearable? And why do poor Sunanda’s have to exist and then suddenly cease to exist at a whim?

Her demise probably came down the hardest on the one person that she clearly forgot the accord some thought to - her son. To lose a mother and then face the public humiliation after the former loss of his (real) father is a bruise big enough to shade the rest of his life. Do women who choose to end their lives over men realize how much they hurt the people around them who actually love them and value them for who they are? It’s always easier to leave the path when the going gets tough and to take the easy exit out. But the path of righteousness, resistance and resilience is far more rewarding than what’s easy in the moment. History seems to suggest that once a man is proven to be a cheater, that side of his personality never seems to go away. One girlfriend after another and one wife after another, all are subject to the same callousness as the previous, disguised in the politely camouflaged excuse of ‘the charm of love wearing off’. Kings and queens and prime ministers and presidents and sportsmen (sadly these are the only people whose stories stick around long enough in public conscience) have proven by means of their lives that infidelity is an affliction - an incurable disease. Then why do women choose suicide over the drama of seeing their men break the hearts (in due course) of the women that they once picked over them?

As we lament the demise of another pretty face (and in India, it almost feels like a crime to be above average in looks – cause people then see you as a picky, narcissistic, dumb human), we also realize that women seriously need to rethink the choices that they make. Nobody asks you to leave your previous lives in the charms of that one new man who has swept you off your feet. If you are incapable of reading your man’s intentions in advance and subsequently ill-equipped to deal with the collapse of your union, please at least hold your careers and family close to you. Because when one door closes, another one can fully absorb your being (like soft cushions softening blows and shocks). If only you give them a chance.

P.S. I like Shashi Tharoor’s writings and liked his tenure at the UN. I rooted for him as he contested for the post of undersecretary. I still like his views on India and the world. But I would be lying if I say that the whole Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor episode hasn’t taken away some charm (and maybe respect, but who am I to judge) away from the old man. The situation could have been dealt with better. If it had been, then one innocent life (even if a little extra emotional and attached) could have been saved. We lament and pray in unison for the innocent departed soul.


The problem with time is…

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 6:02 AM

This existential question arises and haunts everyone at some point in their lives - the actual problem with time. Is there really a problem with time? When do we start feeling it? Is it truly a concept or just a myth? What is the problem with time in the first place? Well, here’s the answer. The problem with time is – that there is just too much of it.

Who are the people who don’t feel it? Young students, young professionals, new couples, young parents, and basically all people young. Too much to do in too little time, too many things to accomplish in a constant adrenaline rush. Time is an essential and handy commodity in their lives. And they never seem to have enough of it. Students don’t seem to have enough time before exams to study. Young professionals are so busy earning money that they have no time for friends or family or leisure. Young couples are so much in love that life is a steady breeze of happiness and joy. No full stops and no ends. Young parents barely have time to look in the mirror, let alone sleep!

So who are the poor ones who feel that there is enough time in life for everything? Well, we’ll start with the next stages in life for all of the people mentioned above. Students graduate, professionals feel burnout and decide to take it slow, couples get old and boring, kids grow up and young parents don’t feel young anymore when time seems to stretch on endlessly as they wait for their kid to get back home from a night-out with friends. But there is also this other breed to people who feel that there is ample time in life to live, love and flourish. Those stuck in a time-travel spectrum, where their spouse is super busy and they are super free. There are also those who have retired from their jobs and are trying to find new meaning and a newer purpose in life. Then there are those who are sick and out of activity, those who can’t seem to know what to do with their time. There are the elderly whose kids have grown up and now have their own families demanding their own priorities. As they come in terms with their decreased utility in life, they find newer ways and newer places of solace (mostly in religion and same-aged company) to fill their time.

What happens when time comes to a naught? Let us not confuse this concept with the lives of people who seems to have developed routines. A ‘routine’ is the anti-dote to boredom and the endlessly stretched passages of time. Routines are developed to fight loneliness, unproductiveness and monotony. It is also the best thing to ever happen to someone who can’t seem to find a direction amidst all the extra time and space. Routine is what keeps strays from becoming strays. Routine regulates life and it ultimately also leads to more successful outcomes. But despite all the benefits, routine is boring and hard to embrace. For those who do, life is easier to sail through as compared to those others who seek their daily doses of thrill, excitement and change.

So what does one do (with a lot of time) to fill up that routine chart? Well that mostly depends on your age, interests and lifestyle. But some generic tips never fail for work. First, find company. Find similar people who are stuck at a similar place in life like you. Talk to them, share your feelings with them, bond with them socially and try to do activities together. A vacation, an evening walk, a daily 30-minute chat session, meet up at a bar, or meet up at the local library or grocery store. But do meet up. And talk away the blues (this trick seems to work with both genders alike).

Second, fall in love with your own company. Lucky are those few who have learnt this lesson early on in life. But those who are taught this the hard way in later stages - worry not! It’s never too late to fall in love with yourself. Engage yourself in intelligent thoughts, read good material, enrich that brain, watch good television programming, work out and keep yourself healthy, pamper yourself, invest money in looking good and good clothes, save for retirement, take health care seriously – it is only when you enjoy your own company and accord due respect to yourself that other will do the same and follow suit. Carve out some me-time every day to get into the habit of loving yourself. Don’t be afraid of spending time alone. If you can harden yourself up to the challenge once, it will become a lifetime asset.

And lastly, have fun. Enjoy whatever you do. It could be travelling, reading, catching up with friends or family, organizing events, contributing artistically to the world (in your writings or paintings), learning a new skill, improving your existing skills (never too late to work on and enhance your culinary style!), stay busy, stay active and you will realize that your are much happier. Because true joy lies in bringing out the best from within yourself and offering it to others to make their lives better too. True joy lies in hard-work, fun and camaraderie. It lies in being kind, polite and productive. Happiness emanates from staying true from within and giving life your best shot - in school, at work, at home and in retirement. It also lies in pursuing your passions, designing the life that you want and treating yourself and others with respect. Happy living :)


The Alchemy of Shame

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 10:37 AM

I had decided I wouldn’t write about this. It seemed like a simple case on the onset and I thought I wouldn’t give it more importance than it deserved. But thanks to a voyeuristic nation that doesn’t let go of even slightly salacious cases like the Aarushi Talwar murder case – the Tarun Tejpal sex scandal has refused to leave the headlines. In the process, it has brought out the worst in the decorated writer/journalist.

Sexual overtures in the media aren’t as rare as one would like to believe. Bosses making advancement towards their juniors just because they are higher up in the hierarchy, the ‘sab chalta hai’ attitude that dominates the industry and the people who aren’t scared to push the limits to see what all they can get away with. Talks laden with sexual innuendo, passing remarks about the ‘quickest way to get promoted’ and the usual sight of girls having to work extra hard to make a mark are common occurrences within these circles. Nobody dares say a word (who would they report it to, right? Their bosses themselves are the news makers) and the constant exploitation of womenfolk continues in this unorganized and largely informal industry. The safest way is to walk away with your head bent down and ignore the overtures at the risk of a doomed career. And nobody dares make any noise about this injustice that is brushed under the carpet on a daily basis. All this until one day when someone leaked Tarun Tejpal’s internal correspondence to the media – BAM!

Tarun Tejpal, one of my favourite writers as a teenager (I devoured ‘Story of my Assassins’ and ‘The Alchemy of Desire’), and the editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine. The same magazine that was until recently seen as pioneer and champion of stories that nobody else dared venture around. That Tarun Tejpal finds himself in a sex controversy. A junior reporter at Tehelka accuses him of ‘gross sexual misconduct’ at a conference in Goa. She says he penetrated her with his finger, not once but twice on two separate occasions, in a resort elevator. Despite her reluctance and despite it being a clear violation of the employer-employee relationship that they shared. Not to mention that the girl was the same age as Tarun’s daughter and also happened to be his daughter’s best friend! He offered to recuse himself from Tehelka for 6-months (that’s unheard of) and admitted to his guilt in the letter that he wrote to managing editor Shoma Chaudhary. Later when that letter got leaked to the media (his own industry), he went back on his words and did what all men do when accused of sexual misconduct – called the act ‘consensual’ between him and the girl. And because of that u-turn, I was prompted to write this post.

So what do I think of Shoma Chaudhary and Tehelka after the expose? Tehelka’s credibility might just as well be finished after this scandal. A magazine that took pride in imparting justice to the slighted failed to assemble a cell to probe the sexual assault allegations for over a week. They scrambled and scrambled some more for some wriggle-room even as the media went berserk asking them to take stricter action against Tarun, over and above his self-determined and self-inflicted hiatus of just six months. Shoma Chaudhary’s response was a surprise too. A lesser known fact about her is that she is also a visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and gives lectures on journalistic ethics and morality (I was a student in a few of those classes too). And yet, when her own friend confessed to a crime of sexual violation and ‘misreading of signals’ (whatever that means), she merely came forward to call it an ‘internal matter’ of Tehelka and failed to take adequate redressal measures to assuage the violated journalist. Last I heard, she quit from her position as managing editor for good.

Over to what I think about Tarun Tejpal and what the future holds for him. Well the man is known for his sexcapades and sexual adventures. I witnessed his fondness for the carnal first hand when I saw him a few years ago at the Jaipur Literary Festival’s Writers Ball, happily surrounded by a bunch of pretty girls with a malt whiskey in his hand, completely oblivious to the going-ons around him and exhibiting zero interest in starting a conversation with anybody outside his beautiful circle of companions. The lurid text in some of his books also indicates a fascination with exploring one’s sexuality and living life in a (depressing) daze. While I wouldn’t hold his text against him, there is no denying the fact that the reputation precedes Tarun Tejpal’s arrival everywhere. To think that he could get away with sexually assaulting a colleague in a lift and then whispering in her ear that that was the easiest way for her to keep her job, on two separate occasions, is a reflection of his mentality that women employees can be suppressed into submission with the threat of keeping their jobs. The complete disregard for the fact that the victim was also his daughter’s friend shows how he isn’t just a bad boss, but also a terrible father. He comes out as a person who can’t even accord due consideration to his family, let alone treat his colleagues right. His credibility has taken a severe hit and it would be sad to see him get away with a light sentence and resuming work in a couple of years (a.k.a. Prabhu Chawla after the radia tapes) and the nation forgetting about his misdemeanors.

What stands out throughout the case is the consistency of the victim’s statements, despite the duress and added pressure of media spotlight. Even after her complaints of receiving threats from several people asking her to withdraw the case, she has managed to hold her ground and not embellished her accounts of what happened on that fateful conference in Goa. Quite unlike Tarun Tejpal, who has oscillated wildly from calling the incident a ‘gross miscalculation on his part’ earlier, to terming it ‘consensual’ later when the case gained prominence. For that crime alone, and the patriarchal mindset that it reveals where he thinks he can blame it on the girl and get away with it, his should be made a model case and Tarun Tejpal be doled out the harshest punishment to dissuade such incidents from happening in the future. Maybe then the dark veil of secrecy shielding the industry will get its tiny hole in the fabric for the aggrieved to peep out from and move towards resurrection. 


The Kellogg JV Experience: Evanston Life

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 10:24 PM

So where do we live in America? It’s this cozy suburb of the metropolitan city of Chicago called – just Evanston. Snug away from the hustle bustle of the city, it’s a quiet town that houses the Northwestern University. The Kellogg School of Management is located very close to Downtown Evanston and if you happen to live in the Northwestern Apartments called McManus (especially reserved for only Kellogg residents), you will find yourself bang opposite The Orrington Hilton Hotel and in the center of Downtown Evanston.

Local Spots

Pubs like JTs, Prairie Moon and Nevin’s will become your midnight hangout dens. You will find yourself eating at Panera Bread, Giordano’s Pizza and Chipotle a lot! The Evanston Public Library is right next to McManus and the membership is free! For JVs who don’t work, and this bit of information will be really helpful, you can issue up to 75 books/movie DVDs at one time (again, all for free!) for your constant entertainment! Citibank and Chase will be your local banking banks and you will take the Metra to Downtown Chicago very often! For the health freaks, there is LA Fitness gym, pilates and barres classes. Lots of organic food also on sale at Wholefoods Market and Trader Joes. A Jewel Osco in the proximity makes life quite easy as well!

The Weather

The weather is generally very bipolar. It swings 10 degree Celsius in just a day sometimes. We have seen temperatures as low as -2 degree Celsius already, and it’s just October!  Lake Michigan has awesome parks alongside it for evening jobs, but the icy cold winds ensure that you layer up before stepping out! Fall season is pretty scenic and could be a photography enthusiast’s delight. Yellow lights from Downtown Chicago light up the evening sky. 

The City

The city is pretty safe (a bunch of us 5 girls have walked back safely to our apartments at 1am after a movie). Uber cab service is recommended by Dean Blount for nearby travel. Clothes and apparel are easily available. The city should be a joyride for people seeking some peace and solitude from the shimmers of noisy big cities! Some find it dull, but the many events at and around Kellogg make it an engaging and enriching journey. Definitely one that all should get a chance to experience! In a nutshell - we love Evanston (until we find a job, at least!).

(Yashika Khanna is an international JV from New Delhi, India. Before she started whiling away time in Evanston while her husband studied at Kellogg, she was a Television News Producer and a journalist. She has degrees in television journalism, commerce and business.)

Also find this blog on the official Kellogg blog page-


I’m attending classes at Kellogg!

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 1:02 AM

First I want to declare this upfront – it is not because of my credit, but all commendation to my husband for having secured an admission and having taken me along as his Joint Venture (JV, as we are called here) – that I am now allowed to, and enjoying, attending classes at the Kellogg School of Management! Because I am back to the blogging sphere and sharing all my thoughts with you folks, here’s how I have been finding them.

First and foremost, without sounding like a wet-blanket/miss-know-it-all, these classes remind me of the time spent attending journalism classes at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) back home in Delhi. When people called it the best place in India to study media and journalism, because of the quiet sense of complacence that is inherent in me and because of how easily I had secured an admission and topped the batch in my day, I didn’t understand the hoopla. But now I do. Which brings Kellogg into perspective – very audiovisual class content, teaching from powerpoint decks and slides, showing movie/research clippings in class to drive a point across, doing individual PLUS group activities, assignments that jog your grey-cells and super participative and attentive classmates.

But that doesn’t sum it up. The second brightest attribute of the college – the intellectual property, the extra-smart, shining and decorated professors! The finesses with which they teach, the knowledge that they bring to the table, the extraordinary concepts that they have unveiled from industry experience/PhD research that they impart and their charm, ease and wit! What a blend. And what a conducive atmosphere to learn. And such interesting incentives (sometimes champagne and chocolate in class!) to learn, study and grow. And the prized course material that is dolled out personally by the professors and can't be found in regular textbooks!

All of this, the frenzy and the colors, remind me of my time spent studying at IIMC. And through this post, I would like to remind the current students that this might as well be the last best 2 years of your life! Because after this, you will nose-dive into the world of corporate politics and not look up or back for the next 30 years till your retirement. So while you are at it, have maximum fun and learn all that you can. Because you might not remember your daily routines and chores here, but the essence of the learnings and the friends that you make here will linger on forever and last a lifetime. Notwithstanding that I am younger than, or equal to, in age to most people here – my ‘preachings’ come from having spent a wonderful time enjoying graduate school and now living up the same experience with my husband. Lots of gusto to him and the frills for me! This is good :)


And I am back... with a bang!

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 2:46 AM
I have been away and this place has dried up. But now I am back! With an explanation and with tonnes of news! I left my job at Headlines Today, got married and moved to America. So many things together? Hence the long absence. But now that the dust has settled after the storm, I am back to reclaim my space and to share my thoughts with the world.

First over to some news back home in India. Narendra Modi is gaining prominence and the country stands on the verge of having one of its most turbulent general elections next year, which are most likely to give a fractured verdict. Good I am away from the mess and wouldn’t have to see the murky politics unfold on my television set every night, because it was pretty grim at the time that I left. The wrong people getting the right publicity and the lack of sensible power heads to lead the nation. Gloom and sadness everywhere.

Over to why I allowed so many changes to happen all at once in my life. I thought it was for the good and everybody needs to keep evolving. Although it is pretty lonely in the United States with no job and no studies. Note to self – have to find something to do to keep my resume shining and my mood uplifted!

There is so much more that I have got to share about so many other things and topics. And now that I am back, expect some random musings here. Also note the new change in my name from Yashika Totlani to Yashika Khanna. This place will, however, continue to retain its old-world (old-name) charm, for all practical purposes at least!

So keep dropping by and keep reading up. I enjoy the audience and you will enjoy the company too. So long and tada, loyal readers!

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