Too Busy to Live? Romance for the Time-strapped

You open your eyes. You’re already late.

You rush to the restroom, kitchen, dining room all at the same time (OK you try). Eventually somehow you hop into something that moves and pray to the traffic to be nice to you until you find yourself at your workplace, thrown raw into the chaos of another crazy day.

I’ve been there. I’d be glad to remember my spouse’s name on days like those, leave alone “spend quality time” with him.

“Time-strapped” is a way of life today. For most of us, there’s no way to avoid it, irrespective of our profession. And in the race for survival, connecting with one’s family or spouse is often not the first thing on one’s mind.  

Is there any way out of this rut? Here are some tips for finding time for yourself and your spouse in the midst of the delirium.

Romance for busy couplesPhoto by hartboy

  1. Prioritize: In the mad rat race to the elusive “top”, we often forget the real important thing – people. Make sure you’re not making this mistake. Make a list of your usual day-to-day activities. Commuting to work, work, household chores, cooking, watching TV, going to the gym … include every tiny thing. Now take a long, hard look at it. Is every single item on that list equally important? I don’t know about you, but for most, they aren’t. Is it possible to cut-down on watching TV to find a little more time for things which are a little more important? … After this exercise many “busy” people realize they’re not busy at all. :D
  2.  “Us” time: When was the last time you talked about anything other than grocery lists, jobs, kids, the traffic and the latest Bollywood release? But Surprise! Surprise! These are not the best romance enabling topics of the world. “Us” time is meant to force you to turn the necessary off and the romantic on. It’s a tiny 10 minute block that you set aside everyday – only for each other, for romance, for talking about the little nothings of life, for connecting. No, that doesn’t include connecting with laptops, iPads, phones or other kids.
  3. Family dinner: Whatever you do, you can’t miss having dinner together. Every single evening. Rituals are powerful and a simple “family ritual” like this strengthens familial bonds – between couples as well as larger families with kids. Try keeping the TV switched off during at least one dinner per week. Being forced to talk to each other is a great way of bringing yourselves together.
  4. Romance for busy couplesPhoto by Thynk – Coaching en Alicante – Formación empresar

  5. Dinner dates: Go on a dinner date on a Friday. Instead of meeting at home first, meet directly at the restaurant. The anticipation of waiting for him/her, the excitement of meeting them at an enjoyable environment outside the home bring back the freshness of your initial dating days (besides saving commuting time ;)).  
  6. Lunch dates: In most cities of the world the business district is concentrated in a particular area of the city. If you’re lucky and your workplaces are nearby, how about meeting up for lunch? Besides scraping up more couple time out of your day, this provides you a much needed stress buster midway through your crazy workday.
  7. Stay in touch always: A simple “Have you had your lunch?” or “Just beat the deadline…done and dusted…” from time to time in the midst of your busy work schedule can give a sense of being by each other’s side all the time.

Are there any homemade strategies you and your spouse use to get rid of the too-busy-to-live syndrome? Do share with others by leaving a comment. 

Q&A: My Mother Feels Hurt by my Girlfriend’s Family. How to Make Things Work?


I don’t know how to start this story, but let me just start by saying I love my mother. I never had a great relationship with my father and it’s her hard work, dedication, parental love – whatever you call it – that makes me stand where I stand today.

Lion cub in mum's jawsPhoto by klehmkuhl

I now live and work in the US. Four years back I met my girlfriend (let’s call her AK), a half North Indian-half Bengali born and brought up in the US. Her parents ran away from home and married against their parents’ wishes, though later reconciled and now share good relations with their families. I’m glad to have them in my life – they’ve accepted our relationship fully and are very supportive of me.

Recently we started thinking of marriage. I arranged a meeting between my mother and sister and AK’s parents back in India. Neither AK nor I was present in this meeting.

Unfortunately the meeting didn’t last for even 5 min.  My mother was apparently outraged by the way AK’s mother treated her, and also by her attire which my mother deemed inappropriate for a public place.

Later I started hearing different accounts of the event from my mother, sister and AK’s mother. My mother is very angry at the moment and has gone to the extent of telling me to maintain a distance from AK and her family, suggesting they’re the “clever”, “bling-bling” type and not suitable for a guy like me. 

I really love AK and both of us have given a lot to this relationship. But on the other hand I have no clue as to how to placate my mother and start talking to her meaningfully about it.

I don’t want to hurt my mother by going against her wishes. Understandably, AK doesn’t want to force her way into an unwelcoming family either.

I can’t let either of the two people I love the most in this world become the biggest source of sorrow to the other. Please help me.

–          BG, North Carolina


Hi BG, 

Thank you for writing in. 

There are two important questions here:

  1. Should you get married to your current girlfriend?
  2. If yes, how should you proceed?

Let’s look at #1.

There are a couple of issues at play here.

First of all, AK’s family is settled abroad. Her parents are very liberal people, given the fact that they’re an interracial couple who ran away from home, one generation ago. Going by your description, your family seems to be quite traditional. Hence there’s a huge cultural gap between your family and AK’s. One of the reasons for your mother’s outrage is this.

While you may be settling abroad after marriage and your wife may not have to interact much with your mother, are you sure your traditional upbringing and her liberal upbringing will not lead to clashes at some point?

You might consider yourself liberalized. But we can never fully overcome the influences of our childhood even if we want, and deep inside you might hold traditional beliefs, attitudes and worldviews which neither you nor AK are aware of today. Your long relationship would of course have helped you understand each other to a great extent. But you need to do some soul-searching to find out such possible points of disconnect between the two of you (Why not start with listing down the things about AK’s family that you don’t like?). And she needs to do the same. Also discuss this with her parents openly, if you think they can help. Marriage is a BIG decision, and being uncomfortable now is better than making a mistake.

If after the exercise you’re still convinced you’re made for each other, we can move to Question #2.

We know your mother’s reaction to the whole situation.

I understand your parents are either separated or not very close to each other. Your mother loves her son (you) more than anything else. All her life she’s struggled to make sure he reaches where he is today. Naturally, he’s the core of her life.

In such a situation it’s most natural to feel paranoid – at least subconsciously – about someone else (AK) assuming importance in his life.

Inside, your mother is feeling insecure. She’s afraid she’d cease to hold as much importance to you as she holds today, if you marry someone you’ve fallen in love with (as opposed to someone chosen by her and/or the rest of your family). Add to that the fact that the girl’s family is very modern, enlightened, etc. This is intimidating to your mother. She’s afraid you’ll get so enamoured by their sophistication, progressive attitude etc. that you’ll draw closer and closer to them, forgetting her. Of course she also has the real fears of you experiencing a culture shock if you marry into this family (the concern I mentioned earlier).

Saas bahuPhoto by Shrihari

Let me tell you first off that arranging a meeting between the two mothers as a starter to this relationship was a mistake. You should’ve told her four years ago that there’s someone you like. You should have gone on to talk about her with your mother over all of your calls over the next one year. Eventually you should have let AK and your mother interact telephonically over the next couple of years before you let the girl’s parents meet her. Check this: How to Impress your Girlfriend/Boyfriend’s Parents

However what’s past is past. Now your job is to allay your mother’s fears. You can try the following:

  1. Empathize: Do not mention anything about AK to your mother for a few days now. She’s hurt (quite understandably). Right now your responsibility is to be by her side. For the next few days call her more often than usual. Talk to her very lovingly. No need to bring up the girl’s mother incident (that will lead to more negative emotions on the part of both of you) but ask her often how she’s feeling, how her day was etc. She must feel her pain is as much yours as hers.
  2. Explain: Whenever you think your mother has recovered from this incident, apologize profusely for it. Subsequently tell her gently that she’s totally justified in her reaction given the impression of the girl’s family that she got, but you’ve interacted with them for years and they’re very good people (I hope that’s what you believe ;)). Give her a few instances of the care for you that they’ve shown over the years (may be you have dinner with them often, or they help you with your settling down challenges in a new country… ). In the end repeat to your mother that you’re very disappointed by the way things turned out in their very short meeting and you’re trying to understand why the girl’s family acted in the way they did (even if you’re not doing this ;) ). The objective here is to make your mother believe that you understand her pain and are not suffering from the “son is a son until he takes a wife” syndrome.
  3. Help them become friends: Your mother will not react favourably to the above approach the first time. Keep trying it from time to time (Don’t do it in every conversation – you’ll lose her trust). In the meantime keep mentioning AK casually every now and then. (AK topped her class… AK makes such delicious cakes… AK gave me a beautiful sweater, I’ll send you photos of it… ). Also get AK to say hi to your mother sometime. One very important word of caution – do not make up nice stuff about her to impress your mother, highlight only the real positive aspects of her. Otherwise there will be expectation mismatches and severe strains within the family later. On the same note, encourage AK to be herself – instead of going out of her way to be impressive – while she’s on call with your mother.
  4. Don’t overdo it: Always remember, half of your battle is already won. Your mother, at the end of the day, wants your happiness more than anything else. The very fact that she’d agreed to meet the girl’s family in spite of the fact that they’re settled abroad and are – well – very different from your own is a sign that she’s at least OK with the marriage in principle. So just make sure you take it very carefully from here on. There is no need to put in unnecessary extra efforts – just let things flow naturally while ensuring no further damage occurs.

Let me know how things go. All the best. :)

Valentine’s Day Card Workshop 5 – Chains of Love

Here’s #5 in Love in India special series of DIY Valentine’s Day Cards. Their speciality is that while they’re all exquisite (which you’ll get in many DIY sites around the web), they’re also original and most importantly – each take less than 10 minutes to make (which you’ll not get anywhere else ;)). Today’s is called “Chains of Love”. Here’s the final version. 

Things you’ll need: 

1. Heart-shaped post-its of two different colours. (alternatively, ordinary post-its of two different colours)

2. Scissors.

3. A pencil. 

4. Glue

5. Coloured pens (Optional, for decoration) 

Valentine’s Day card 5 step 1: Choose heart shaped post-its of two different colours. Or make heart-shaped post-its from ordinary post-its as shown in Valentine’s Day Card Workshop 2.Take 4 of each. Each set of 4 post-its is used for making one chain link. So we’re choosing 8 post-its for making a basic 2 link chain. If you want to make a longer, more gorgeous chain, you can choose any number of post-its as long as it’s a multiple of four. 

Valentine’s Day card 5 step 2: Make 8 equally sized coloured strips of paper. These would serve as the links in the chains of hearts.

Valentine’s Day card 5 step 3: Put glue on the two ends of each strip and use them to connect two heart-shapes each. You now have the basic units of the two chain links.

Valentine’s Day card 5 step 4: Decorate each chain link with your favourite quote on each post-it.

Valentines Day Card 5 step 5: Complete the first chain link by connecting the first post-it with the 4th, with the help of a connecting strip.

Valentines Day Card 5 step 6: Complete the next chain link through the first. You now have a complete chain of love.

Valentines Day Card 5 step 7: Fold up the entire thing. It will make it look like a clumsy compilation of quotes to the person receiving your gift. I’m sure you can imagine their surprise when they open it up and see your gorgeous chain of love.

Valentines Day Card 5 step 8: Alternatively you can create the two links separately and use them as love bands to be worn around the wrist.

Like that? No? Let me know in any case by leaving a comment. :)

My Valentine’s Day 2: “The Mysterious Event Which Occurred One Valentine’s Day…”

Hi friends. I’m Anuradha Mallick. You wouldn’t have heard of Mogra – the little town about an hour and a half away from Kolkata where I grew up – or my school, Dr. B.C. Roy High School. It’s here that I first heard about Valentine’s Day – or “Vegetable Day” as it was known among the kids back then.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

To us, it meant gossip. Loads of it.

Who got the maximum number of proposals from boys?

Who accepted?

Who rejected?

Who got the most candy?


Ah the days of childhood.

I had to leave them behind though (don’t we all?), and went on to earn my B. Tech. (still battling its final throes), along with pursuing my dreams of becoming a photographer.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

I was in my 2nd year when it happened.

It was 14th Feb. I was about to go out for a jog, when I discovered it just by the door.

A box full of chocolates, and a bunch of exquisite red roses. No note. No sign.

No guys, I don’t have a photo of those mysterious objects. The world was not so click-o-manic back then. At least ours wasn’t. But I digress…

Expectedly, it was a shock. I can’t deny that sudden flutter in my stomach and that hot feeling on my cheeks. I strived to tell myself that it may not be for me, but I knew it was. A rush of confused feelings flooded my system. Happiness. Panick. Dizziness. Excitement.

Unfortunately my first surprise Valentine’s Day gifts had to end up in the wild bushes behind our home. Bringing them in would’ve raised eyebrows. And I didn’t want to be asked pointed questions about my non-existent boyfriend.

The next year my anonymous admirer surprised me with his intimate knowledge of my taste of chocolates – I got a bar of Bourneville and one of Crackle that year, which I’d acquired a taste for only shortly before.

Another year my niece discovered my present, went wild with juvenile curiosity and got me into trouble by somehow managing to involve my parents. It was hilarious.

In hindsight.

I still receive my roses and box of chocolates every Valentine’s Day. The sender is still elusive. I’m still searching.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

Note: Anuradha is one of the first and most ardent fans of Love in India. She’s also one of the few budding photographer friends whose photos I love. Do check out her page Anuradha Mallick photography for a taste of her talents.