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Author Koyel Duttagupta curates effective communications in book, and discusses branding, online coaching in digital age


Kolkatta born and settled in Pune, Koyel Duttagupta is a communication and social media professional releasing her first book ‘Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’. An alumnus of the prestigious Loreto, the author has graduated in communications and worked as a professional with big brands such as AXA, Resilinc and Deutsche Bank as a content provider spanning across vast areas such as private medical insurance, technical, notifications on supply chain-related events, audio/video snippets from YouTube, SoundCloud to drafting legal contracts pertaining to finance transition. In this interview, this media professional discusses what led her to come up with the on Mindful Communication during the lockdown last year after discussion with her husband, the Ws of reading it, the relevance of branding in today’s digital times, and the thriving L&D market on how to choose effectively and reliable online communication coach, cutting above the rest. Koyel has a message in her book for young graduates and communication experts.

Click on Amazon to get a copy of Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’ and connect with the author on FB, Linkedin and Insta.

Author Koyel Duttagupta.

1. Corporate and Self-Help book, if I may say so, ‘Mindful Communication’ belongs to a niche genre. How does your book reach out to a wider crowd, beyond the targeted audience in today’s age of digital media?

‘Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’ is my brainchild and as you mentioned correctly, the book belongs to a specific genre.  I didn’t want to follow the cliché marketing mantra for my first book and have put across the e-book details on my various social media pages such as Facebook page, LinkedIn and Insta following the traditional ‘word of mouth’ technique. I believe that it is critical for a first venture to have word-of-mouth publicity helping the author/writer become a household name and connect with readers.

2. The virus and lockdown have forced many to sit and contemplate reinvention. I guess it’s no different for you looking at the fact that you embraced social media as a career. How the attitudinal shift in perspective has helped you to come up with this book and what ‘Mindful Communication Within You for a Better You’ is all about?

The global pandemic in 2020 definitely is an eye-opener for me. The ‘work from home’ setup was taking a toll on my health and I was not enjoying my regular job at all. I felt this urge to do something on my own and work on my passion for ‘writing’ in a broader context and communicating with the wider mass. I trusted my instinct and took a step ahead to change my career path after a lengthy discussion with my husband. This decision was not an easy one as I was diving into insecurity but I wanted to listen to my heart this time and not my brain.

‘Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’ is all about effective communication with yourselves. We hardly get time to connect with our inner souls or minds and always doing the running around after our jobs/chores on a regular basis. Our minds get fully ignored in this process and we don’t give ourselves enough time. On top of that, with virtual setup coming into the picture, we have lost the human connect. This detachment was a concern for me, and I started with my research on the same coupled with personal experiences and suggestions in stitching my book which took shape in a month’s time. The end product is on Kindle for everyone to read!

3. You are a product of the prestigious Loreto in Kolkata and communication grads which brings you close to what you are doing as a professional in your field of work. How your education has defined your career and influenced the book’s making and to what extent you want it to impact the lives of aspiring young communication graduates or digital experts, and professionals in a field where we speak about 360-degree solutions?

Being a Mass Communication student, I felt my forte has been ‘expression’. In my 12 years of corporate experience, I have been mostly into content writing and content management. I derive immense satisfaction when I can express my thoughts in my own words and it reaches the right audience.

Communication is everywhere. We need it and we need to imbibe it skillfully so that we succeed in today’s e-world. Having said that, I would recommend to all the young graduates and digital experts, not to ignore this concept and the mechanism of Communication. You can be highly knowledgeable and an expert in your processes but if you cannot express or articulate effectively and put forward the right point at the right time, you will be nowhere.

To add on, just wanted to let all your readers know that I am coming up with my online communication training program shortly. I will cover both personal and professional aspects of communication in my program in a detailed manner to help people understand the nitty-gritty of the communication process as a whole.

4. Coming back to your career, an impressive CV dabbling into content and being part of leading brands such as AXA, Resilinc, and Deutsche bank writing with exposure to events and snippets on YouTube and Sound Cloud. How do you see the growth of such channels leapfrogging to make communications an important aspect of our lives be it corporate and personal, particularly in today’s times?

Communication is evergreen and vast subject which keeps evolving. It’s true that we are living in a digital world, hence the need to use social media to reach wider masses. FB, Insta, YouTube, WhatsApp, Telegram, and LinkedIn, to name a few are here to stay. We can reach out to many simply by ‘going live’ and just by sharing content here. Moreover, these applications are coming up with unique and distinct features suiting different types and content duration.  Hence, as a student, teacher, corporate leader, or employee we all need to be tech-savvy and utilise social media to its fullest extent and potential to enhance visibility.

5. How do you see branding in communications from the trainer’s perspective evolving during the years and the challenges we will face in a world severely impacted by the corona pandemic?

To be honest, today’s virtual world is replete with online trainers, coaches and speakers. There are multiple domains and a bevy of experts to follow. Obviously, how do you know who is genuine and whom to follow! In this context, branding plays an important role to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Your knowledge in the field of Communication needs to be associated with a specific niche and it should be clear enough to attract the right audience who in the long run can associate with you.

Branding is ever evolving but the knowledge you want to share needs to have strong footage into it. It has to be personalized and for that reason only, one needs to make it unique.  If there is one positive role the COVID-19 outbreak played is that it led to the L&D market booming in the current times. This market needs knowledge givers armed with the true intention and without their personal brands, it makes it difficult to sustain.

The book Mindful Communications-Within You for a Better You.

6. One thing which interests me and to the benefit of readers is how your book addresses the underlying issues and opportunities in communications, need to reinvent and embrace the vastly complex world of digital?

My e-book ‘Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’ speaks about mindful presence or self-awareness before we actually speak or read or write. Our mind is mostly functioning with a ‘what if syndrome’ which builds and breeds in too much negativity in and around us. So, it’s important to be fully aware of ourselves, understand the feelings, emotions and thoughts that create the Communication process, how to effectively communicate with ourselves and others in any environment.

7. How do you see the market demand for ‘reliable’ online communication coaches and what it takes to be a cut above the rest in terms of training and education, offering a tailor-made approach to the needs of a young crowd, as distinct from handful coaches mushrooming daily? Do you see aspire to take this role sometime soon in creating value addition?

As I mentioned earlier, the L&D market is growing enormously in the current times where the market demand for ‘reliable’ online communication coaches is definitely quite high. You can make a mark for yourself if you know who is your target audience, offer tailor-made courses based on the participants’ or clients’ needs and also carry a strong personal branding essence with you. Something which you offer has to be genuine and not covered by anyone before – that gives the edge to you above all others.

I have mentioned earlier in one of your questions, that Yes, I am coming up with my online communication courses soon and I am sure it will add a lot of value to the learners who pick it up.

8. Your book has opened to positive reviews in such a short span of time. Are there plans to come up with a longer version in future or a new book tapping into the complexity of communications and how you would describe the USP of ‘Mindful Communications…’?

Yes, I am planning to come up with a new book, hopefully tapping into areas of ‘Communication and Leadership’. The USP of Mindful Communication – Within You for a Better You’ is simple, written in free-flowing English language explaining complex concepts or ideas. It is a short read of 18 pages and the tips prescribed are easy to follow but gives extraordinary value in return.

Love

V

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Shilpa Suraj on why romance is fiction and she being frazzled is not!


Shilpa Suraj defines herself as sleep deprived, caffeine drinking zombie who has dark circles under her eyes to rival the black hole giving a peek into this funny mom, corporate, Insta star juggling time between family, home and office. You just cannot ignore this writer who has perfected the art of how to tickle your funny bones. One year and a half when she was thrown into the sea of books and lying on the kitchen floor with a picture book, the Pune based writer plays so many roles, entrepreneur and romance writer who is no mood to stop. Already ‘Love Marriage and Other Disasters’ is winning our hearts and the reader didn’t have time for the romance to play havoc with the head when Shilpa surprises us with a sequel, ‘Love, Truth and Taking Chances’. Believe it or not, the character in her latest offering is Arjun (Kapoor).

You gotta crazy to be a writer. She spins a yarn with her books and on a roll one after the other. You name it, You Get It! Something Old Something New, Saved by Love, Driven by Desire and The Girl He Left Behind, Wrong to Frazzled and Fabulous and My Heart’s Regret. Shilpa breathes romance and tales 24 by 7 it seems and by her own admission, romance will always be heart to her. Follow Shilpa on Instagram to witness the madness behind the writing grind. Truly, a best seller.

In this hearty chat, the writer doesn’t shy or stop at anything letting the secrets out. And she got tons of them with swag. Surprising her fans with the third and fourth of installments of your favorite books. Shilpa can be looked out on her personal website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

You can check her books on Amazon.

 

Author Shilpa Suraj.

 

  1. Your latest book, ‘Love, Truth and Taking Chances’ is back with Arjun (Kapoor), Alisha and Vivaan. Romance is sparkling with characters in the first book and your fans, readers alike are asking for more saccharine. What would you tell readers on the magic with one liner…the squiggly’ making it merrier with this installment?

 

 

Love, Truth, and Taking Chances is back with a different and yet as strong story to tell. How do you live with loss? How long do you mourn? Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a dream, Arjun and Vihana have both traversed a hard road to this moment in time. The moment that brings them face to face. And with the two of them, the squiggle is instant. 😊

 

  1. Let’s get back to the prequel, ‘Love, Marriage and Other Disasters’: How much of Shilpa Suraj, the ever romantic girl and Insta star is present in the book, her love, breakups or love marriage when he proposed?

 

There is a reason why I write romantic fiction because in my real life, romance is fiction!!! Jokes aside, I wish real life was as eventful as the best rom-coms but it’s really more laundry, meal prep, office work, and now thanks to this pandemic, the horror that is online classes.

 

 

  1. You have a way of connecting with young and mature fans with Love, Marriage and Other Disasters and of course, the Abhishek Bachchan liner is something to die for and perfectly marrying humor in romance. Tell the secret: How one liners fits so effortlessly in your book and secret in conjuring loud laughs?

 

 

My mother once told me that the only true choice I had in life was whether to laugh or to cry. The rest, whatever is going to happen will and there is very little in our control. I do my best to laugh every day. Some days I fail but then I wake up the next day and try again.

 

My one true hope for my books is that they entertain. For me, it’s as simple as that. I want the reader to close the book with a smile and the warmth that comes with having read a good story.

 

 

  1. Your books Something Old Something New, Saved by Love, Driven by Desire and The Girl He Left Behind brings alive the breezy emotions anchored in the real times, be it young Millenials or mature adults? How do you make romance electrifying and jazzy, and would you say that rom-com is one genre that would never go out of fashion to naysayers?

 

I love a happy ending, and no, I don’t mean that in a naughty way. I think every genre has its die hard fans and so does rom-coms. I believe in writing the stories that mill around in my head and I hope that the readers will enjoy reading about the chaos spilling out of my imagination. 😊

 

 

  1. How are the characters born and the quirkiness at the end where the madness reaches a notch higher with every one of them? Would you say throwing pebbles, oops stones breaking window gives the vibes baking narrations and tales making them fall in love err or practice at your own risk?

 

I would say they’re all real, relatable, distinct people who make mistakes, find their paths, and then learn how to fix their mistakes. How they go about it and chart their futures together, that’s the true magic of a good romance.

 

And no, I don’t recommend breaking windows by throwing pebbles/rocks…once the romance wears off, guess who has to clean up the shattered glass?

 

 

  1. Corporate job, mom to a toddler, Insta star and writer, where do you get the time to write and bake Insta stories wooing readers every time or connecting through the Newsletter? Do you follow a specific writing discipline routine or do you go with the flow or jazz writing?

 

I don’t get to go with the flow because there are an insane amount of demands on my time and attention to be met through the day. My days belong to my child, my family, home, and office but it’s when everyone has gone to sleep that I sit down to write. What this essentially means is that I’m sleep deprived, caffeine drinking zombie who has dark circles under her eyes to rival the black hole.

 

Jokes apart, I spend a lot of time juggling the different aspects of my life. I have several balls up in the air at any given point in time. Some days, I ace it and spin them with a flourish. Some days, they collapse on top of me conks on my head.

 

  1. You also run a Newsletter sharing the latest happening as an author right from cover reveals, book excerpts and reviews. How important it is for you as an author to engage with readers and what has been the major takeaways drawing on feedback to better your craft?

 

 

I love hearing from readers and am always open to feedback. At least this way I know someone is reading my books! The newsletter is a chance for me to talk books, all kinds of books…the ones I’m reading, the ones I’m writing and the ones I wish I’d written. Everything. It’s also my attempt to give people a peek into my life and my world. So, if you’d like to peek, please sign up for my newsletter.

 

 

  1. The romance author is forever busy, right from the upcoming Wrong to Frazzled and Fabulous. To what extent romance will be distinct from the part memoir and part fiction offering and would you call it challenging shifting gears?

 

Well, the romance is fiction and me being frazzled is not!

They’re two completely different genres. I write romance because it makes my heart happy. No matter what else I dabble with, I will always write romance.

 

Frazzled and Fabulous is a different ballgame. When I had my child, my entire support system collapsed around me for several unforeseen reasons. I was left alone with a fifteen day old premature baby whom I had no idea how to take care of. I say this often and I truly believe it, Z and I grew up together. We’re in many ways a team because of the way things played out at that time. It was still a very lonely, harrowing time and I first started writing Frazzled and Fabulous in a bid to reach out for companionship and for support. It’s a book I am extremely passionate about, not only because it’s our story, Z’s and mine, but also because it’s a story I’d like all women, and even for that matter men, to read. To read, to know, and to hold close to their hearts, the fact that while this journey might feel lonely, you are not alone. We’re all right there with you.

 

 

  1. A Panelist at SheThe People Women Writer’s Fest and New Age Lit Fest. A writer has so many roles to play in today’s digital and social media age and to what extent it is changing the way you see yourself in the creative process and the importance of Lit Fest. Would you say network and digital have become an intrinsic part of writing?

 

 Literary festivals are a marvelous opportunity to engage with readers, fellow writers, and like minded folks. It’s lovely to talk books with people who love books as much as you do.

 

Networking and going digital I think are an intrinsic part of all life, not just writing. We do it in all walks of life, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes with forethought.

 

 

  1. ‘From Love, Marriage and other Disasters to Love, Truth and Taking Chances’, how was the idea born and was there a gap jumping to the sequel in lending voice to the characterization, do we see a third and final installment? Also, what role digital medium such as Kindle is playing in the way we read books in today’s age?

 

I’ve always wanted to write a series. The depth that previously loved characters bring to future stories is unparalleled. There wasn’t much of a gap between the two and yes, there is a third and final installment. I am currently writing Arav and Disha’s story and it should release soon.

I think Kindle has brought a lot of convenience into our lives. I read both paperbacks and ebooks. The Kindle brings with it the ease of portability, storage, and just the sheer joy of being able to read at night while everyone is asleep without having to shine a torch on a book or be yelled at by others for not turning off the light. In the end, I’d say to each their own. It doesn’t matter how you read, as long as you read.

 

PS: The interview has been facilitated by Debdatta Sahay.

 

Love

V

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In conversation with Ritu Lalit on nonfiction about estrangement


 

Author Ritu Lalit.

 

Ritu Lalit is no stranger to the world of writing and fiction,  from ‘Wrong for the Right Reasons’, ‘His Father’s Mistress’ to ‘Bowlful of Butterflies’, ‘Hilawi’,  and ‘Chakra- Chronicles of the Witch Way’, among many lapped by her audience. Writer and blogger, Ritu Lalit comes with a twist in her latest “From Son to Stranger” (FS2S), a non-fiction book speaking about the very sensitive topic about adult estrangement on how relationship breaks up between parents and children. In the interview, she speaks on the reason to write the book and makes a strong point on the need to heal and acceptance in the interwoven tales, revolving around the personal and stories heard. Click on Amazon to buy the book. Follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog and Podcast.

 

  1. After dabbling in fiction, what pushed you to write From Son to Stranger described as non-fiction with little hope for reconciliation?

 

 

During my research for the book, everyone I met and talked to wanted me to write about adult estrangement.  They wanted me to tell their stories without taking their names.  So I did it.

On a personal level writing a semi-fiction Wrong for the Right Reasons gave me more satisfaction than all the fiction I have written.  I realized that writing truth or subjects close-to-truth is more challenging and rewarding.

 

  1. The book offers simple tools for acceptance, heal, and work with pain coupled with estrangement. How do you view the changing equation between parents and children, becoming complex in today’s times?

 

Like I say in the book, there is no compulsion for people to live together, even if they share the same DNA.  That being said, I think our children are emotionally stronger than we were.  Many of us had less than perfect parents but we never had the courage to move away.  These kids do not tolerate imperfection in their parents and move away.  Unless our parenting style becomes less repressive, we will see more of estrangements and distancing in our family units.

 

  1. Do you think that expectations and aspirations laden with a certain element of possessiveness often drive an edge between children and parents and is the book based on personal observations or peoples’ tales spinning around you?

 

Generalization is dangerous.  However, let me do some in this reply.  In some ways Indian parenting is possessive and manipulative. We do not teach children to adult but use manipulation to keep them dependent on us.

In other cases, our parenting style is abusive, and children do not have the right to live their own lives and go after their own dreams.

On the flip side, many of us parents bend backwards to not become our parents.  We make our children entitled, spoilt and irresponsible. This observation is based on both personal life as well as stories I have heard.

 

 

  1. Your book, Wrong for the Right Reasons tells the tale of a single mother with two children and though it appears technically wrong to compare fiction with reality, are there similarities with your latest one as a sequel of sort lent realism?

I never thought of FS2S as a sequel to Wrong, but yes, it could be considered as a sort of sequel.  However, Wrong was realism blended with fiction, this is purely nonfiction.

 

  1. How does the person reconciles with rupture in this context where it may happen across various relationship equations that many, including single parents would relate to? 

 

In every relationship there is a possibility of misunderstanding and break up/estrangement.  I think it is totally understandable.  People evolve at different speeds and can go out of sync with each other.  They must change and learn before attempting reconciliation, otherwise they are at the same place that led to the breakup and they will fail again.

 

  1. Would one say that a book like Son to Stranger is a closure for parents and how complex was it to write about a sensitive subject, the emotions and scars?

 

It was not complex.  I was already journaling.  I was meeting other estranged parents and writing down accounts of my conversations with them.  After my spiritual experience, I just compiled my journal entries, my notes, my unsent letters into a book format and sent it off.

 

  1. What is the story all about and novel ideas injected in demarcating you from brand Ritu and the kind of research or travel involved? Would you call Son to Stranger the most difficult book you’ve written?

 

I don’t think writing the book was difficult.  Experiencing the estrangement was difficult.  Making sense of it, accepting it and learning from it was difficult.  Writing about it was just the culmination of that journey.

 

  1. Are there plans in going back to fiction or a second part of Stranger to Son? What message do you have for readers of the book which is already garnering positive reviews?

 

My next book is fiction and it is already with my agent.  My message to readers of FS2S is that we need to grow and learn from whatever life experiences we have.  Denial and non-acceptance of truth only delays the healing process.

Love

v

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Interview: Paromita Goswami on The Clockmaker, paranormal and next outing


Paromita Goswami

Paromita Goswami is no stranger to the world of paranormal thrillers and spinning spooky tales, regaling her readers with mystery embedded in the racy supernatural world. As a writer, her works are diverse and not limited to one genre, as showcased by ‘Grow Up Messy!’ narrated from the eyes of a child that won accolades.  In her latest The Clockmaker, the author wove a riveting tale about time traveling from past and present, blending in the present making it stuff best sellers are made of. In the blog interview, Goswami tells what went into the making of The Clockmaker and the next outing where readers should brace for a surprise coming soon. Work routine and the popularity of paranormal on whether it will find an audience with Indians are delightfully discussed by the writer. You can click on Amazon to buy the book, connect on the author’s Facebook page and Twitter. 

 

Author Paromita Goswami.

 

 

  1. How did you choose the theme of paranormal, blending it with the past and present in The Clockmaker?

 Paranormal has always been my forte. In each of my work, you will see a tinge of it but not in an eerie fashion. In the jungle series, I explored the theme and must confess about enjoying the mystery to the hilt.

The clockmaker is the first book of the series coming as a standalone novel.  Blending paranormal with past and present in the book wasn’t my choice. It was the character’s calling.  I was only versed with the start and the end of the novel. The characters paved the way in flashing the narration and giving the shape. In this instance, it was paranormal.

 

  1. Would you say The Clockmaker was the most difficult and complex written book and was the setting inspired by real events or Indian mythology?

 I wouldn’t call it difficult since I loved the entire experience but when a challenge occurs, complex? I would say yes. Blending the two worlds and the paranormal part of it was complex. There wasn’t an ounce of real events. No, it’s all the way fiction.

 

  1. The Clockmaker has garnered rave reviews and you are a writer not sitting on its laurel with the coming of part 2. What can readers expect and do you get conscious of huge expectations on your shoulders?

Thanks. Yes, now working on the second book of the series and it will be a standalone novelette. It will hit the stands and brace for August 2019 release.

 

  1. Your career boasts of an interesting and diverse choice of themes such as Shamshuddin’s Grave, and Grow Up Messy, not to forget The Time Piece a preview, as a prelude to The Clockmaker, which seems that this theme is very close to your heart. Sometimes writers can be an obsessed lot and did the theme haunt you?

I prefer writing diverse themes. And yes, the story and characters haunt me till I put them on paper or the digital format. Imagine having sleepless nights because I am busy writing another story and the characters wouldn’t let me be at peace.

As a writer, it is very important to write what comes first in mind. Even if it’s a small thing and bugging to no end, you get it down on paper or laptop without wasting time. This I find very helpful. Because then I know what to work on next.

 

  1. The Clockmaker opens in a terrifying and riveted manner introducing bauji meeting the hooded man, lost in a jungle. The tone is dark yet subdued. Were there different draft options for the opening chapter before choosing this one?

  The prelude of a book is very important. It has to be alluring as well as give away what’s inside the book. I don’t make drafts for the scene of my books. But yes I do outline my story. It helps me to navigate from one scene to another serially. So I know what I am expecting in my scene.

 

 

  1. Does the second part of The Clockmaker takes off where it ends and will the lovable couple Vicky and Kavya comeback together with Ashish, Lata and grandpa or will take off completely different characters. Any hint on the next outing?

There is no second part. It’s a standalone novel like I mentioned earlier. The next book in the series is spooky and a horror thriller by the name ‘A night @ Achanakmar’.

 

 

  1. What is the reason so far very fewer writers are tapping into the theme of supernatural and do you think the market is limited into this genre in India?

Supernatural, paranormal, horror is a very popular theme outside India. However, the concept is being popularized in India as well and am sure we will slowly but surely find a very good reader fanbase.

 

 

  1. What is your writing routine like and from where you observe the stories translated into words in your part of India?

I love to write when my world goes to sleep. So it’s late-night mostly. It helps me in other ways too. The best time for horror writing!

I am always inspired to write and draw from real-life incidents. In the case of Shamshuddin’s Grave, the story was inspired by a newspaper article. ‘Grow Up Messy!’ was inspired by the life of the early eighties narrated through the eyes of a child. The Clockmaker’s muse was my recent visit to a saree shop. And the list goes on!

 

Love

V

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From banker to nature lover, journalist and author, Nishika Bajaj spills the secret about Tiny Tara and the Tree of Life


Interview: Nishika Bajaj, banker, journalist, Top Linkedin Voice for 2018 and author

 

Nishika Bajaj dabbles into a multitude of things, Philanthropy is her passion, global development and entrepreneurship, she sees it as a means to make the world better. Banker, journalist and author who broke several grounds and shattered a myth that career change is impossible. Her journey is inspiring and path-breaking for bagging the Linkedin Top voice in 2018 under the Philanthropy and Global Development category. 

Banker, journalist and author who broke several grounds and shattered a myth that career change is impossible. Her journey is inspiring and path-breaking for bagging the Linkedin Top voice in 2018. Nishika doesn’t flinch in telling a good story to the rightful audience. After all, she is an MBA turned Post Grad in Journalism, banker turning author. A blockchain enthusiast on social media, this young mother who spent her formative years in Allahabad and Delhi from Delhi is a globe-trotter, traveling throughout India and now resides in Mauritius with her husband Karan and son Aaran.

 

Journalist, banker, author and Top Linkedin Voice Nishika Bajaj.

 

At a time when many of us been crying hoarse on climate change and growth at the altar of nature where calamities and global warming is threatening existence for future generations, Nishika Bajaj has penned a book through the eyes of children, Tiny Tara and the Tree of life on nature’s imbalances affecting us. Who better than seeing the world through the eyes of innocent children? The young author says that the book transforms children as the real ambassadors and champions of environment where she advocated the essence of outdoors. on what makes her click on social media and the role played by her two-year-old son in bringing her close to nature, her love for writing. Her USP is the effortless capacity to slip into her passion, Writing and this uncanny ability as a power woman to follow her passion. Tiny Tara and the Tree of Life will not the first and last outing she says for a series is on the anvil, to change our mindset about nature and its importance to the young readers who matter the most, who can imagine a world greener, cleaner and kinder.

 

 You can buy the book on Amazon and connect with her on Linkedin to check her works.

 1. Top LinkedIn voice and influencer, banker, journalist, author, and mom. How do you juggle so many roles and is there anything left that you want to do?

 

(laughs) Turn into a scuba diving pro! I swear by the philosophy: It is better to embrace life and take a deep dive into the many roles we wish to play, than looking back and regret not living life to the fullest. Now that I am in my 30s, there are already things I regret not doing in my 20s. I would rather be wearing all the different hats– banker, journalist, mom, LinkedIn voice and now author – with all the vigor and youthful energy brimming, than look back in my sunset years and wonder why I didn’t do it earlier!

 

 

  1. You are an important social media voice on thought leadership under the category of philanthropy and Global Development. What does it take to make this difference to uplift, break barriers through philanthropy and to be this leading personality on social media?

 

I moved from banking to journalism with the vague idea of making a difference. This nascent idea crystallised into something more definite when I joined impact investor GroFin as Marketing Writer, Editor and Journalist, and learned first-hand on the various challenges that entrepreneurs in emerging economies such as Africa and the Middle East had to overcome in getting access to the much-needed funds and garnering support for their small businesses.

Listening to the voice of gritty entrepreneurs, understanding their motivation in contributing to uplift their communities and families escape poverty, the drive to succeed against all odds and their unbelievable courage in going at it alone constituted this experience that truly shaped my writings on LinkedIn.

As for what it takes to make this difference, I constantly read, research, check facts and figures and distil my learnings into thought leadership blogs that aim to educate and tell investors, technical assistance providers, entrepreneurs and students forming part of the impact investing landscape in emerging economies across the world. I am right now excited by what I see unfurling in the blockchain financing model, and the opportunities it unlocks for SMEs to access funds in the peer-to-peer lending space.

 

  1. Can you share about your education as an MBA graduate, banking career and what eventually led to the shift in exploring journalism and writing?

 

 Pursuing MBA was a real revolution in my study towards a goal-– before that, one studied for the sake of learning. This was the first time in my life when I studied single-mindedly towards a less lofty objective – getting a campus placement and making it to the ‘best’ (read: highest paying) employer. It didn’t take me long to get disillusioned with the world of banking, but I clung on, because all my life, I had been told that it was a sign of failure to give up.

After 5 long years, I finally did just that – ‘gave up’ – and moved to doing what I had always wanted in my entire life: Write! Journalism seemed like a natural career choice, so I enrolled at the Asian College of Journalism and travelled from Delhi in North India to Chennai in South India, feeling like I was exploring a brave new world in the process, a rich sub-culture among the many micro-cultures that make up India.

Little did I know that fate (and my husband!) would conspire to take me halfway across the globe from India to Mauritius where I would meet the second love of my life – impact investing (smile) J Writing on entrepreneurs from community-centric sectors such as agribusiness, healthcare, education, manufacturing and water/waste/energy became a passion that carried over into my blogs on LinkedIn.

Writing has already become a way of life and it was only when my third love was born, my now two-year-old son Aaran, helped discover the author inside me.  His love for all things green triggered this signal and after living in an island so closely intertwined with nature for a good five years, I finally found my inner calling residing within to write about a subject that should have been second nature to me – the green cover around us that is slowly shrinking and making way for a concrete jungle instead. I have already lost my country of birth to this maze of a concrete jungle, but my adopted land of Mauritius can still be saved. I only wish I could do more to educate people around me on the importance of nature.

 

Image credit: http://www.goodreads.com

  1. Tiny Tara and the Tree of life is your first book destined for children aged between 9-12. Not many writers can think to pen a book for children, not only an entire universe to unravel and a huge market but also carries a big lesson on the nature imbalance taking place?

As grown-ups, we are too taken up by the need to eke a living to worry about our livelihood being made at the cost of nature.  Corporate greed is also eating away our green cover and there is nothing much that is being done to replace this precious legacy. In the midst of this tussle between humans and their environment, I see children turning into green crusaders. From ‘Go green Diwali’ to ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyan’, children in India are already taking the lead on environmental issues.

We sometimes steer clear of burdening our children with messages that are perceived as too heavy, or issues seen to be too ‘grown-up’ for them. For my first book which carries the all-too-important and indeed life-changing message on the nature imbalances taking place all around us, I have chosen children to be the recipients of this message because I firmly believe that they are the true stewards of nature’s legacy.

 

 

  1. The cover, Tiny Tara and the Tree of Life, is hauntingly beautiful and having a tremendous impact on nature constantly being under threat. How did you arrive at the cover creative based on the encounter between the huge tree and the tree sprite which is sensitive and soulful in firing imaginations?

 

The cover took shape in my mind while writing the book. I could see Tara, the princess of the tree spirits called ‘Tinies’, standing at the foot of the Tree of Life, a tiny tree sprite with a huge tree towering over her, as though to protect her. What is the real threat that the tree is protecting her from becomes clear as the reader journeys through the book.

 

 

  1. Your book is about a little girl sprite, breathing in the company of nature. In the modern times, nature takes a huge toll with haphazard development and you have a young son, how much of dialogues take place between both of you on nature in our society and its sheer beauty?

 

It was indeed when my son was born that a deeper bond was forged between nature and I. His first words after family was centered on birds, animals, flowers and trees. He is still too young to weave completed sentences but his body language and love for the outdoors leave no doubt in my mind that there is so much more harmony between children and nature than we grown-ups can ever comprehend.

 

 

  1. Tiny Tara and the Tree of Life is a tale of fantasy and mythology together. You are taking young readers on an adventure thrill and what you promise to them in this extraordinary fable?

 

Did you know that the neem tree gives out oxygen even at night? Some trees have such beneficial effects that they were considered sacred, and nature worship did form an important element of Indian culture in the old days. We still consider shrubs and trees such as Tulsi, Banyan, Neem and Peepal to be sacred, using their leaves for auspicious occasions and holy festivals. These are the elements of mythology that find a place in this book, which holds as its central theme the importance of respecting trees and nurturing nature.

The book is otherwise a complete fantasy about tree spirits and how they live all around us – yet we humans, in our complete ignorance of nature, cannot see them. I have also tried to bring to my young readers the thrill of adventure in which the children of the tree spirits take the lead and succeed on a dangerous path where grown-ups are unwilling to tread. Ultimately, my book is all about empowering children and giving them the power to charter their future. As grown-ups, we clearly are not doing a good enough job of saving the precious green legacy that was handed down to us.

Globally, countries are striving to save the environment by committing to concrete steps such as the Paris Agreement on action against climate change and Goal 13 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on Combating Climate Change. However, I am afraid that it will be too late for the future generation or at least our children’s children to enjoy earth’s bounty unless we all do our bit towards arresting global warming. Whether we hold the future of our children dear enough is the only question that we all need to answer in our minds.

 

 

  1. The book blurb reads: Can trees talk? Rustling leaves and crackling barks apart, doesn’t it sometimes seem as though the trees around us really do have something more to say?’ How do tiny creatures make trees talk the language and dialogues adults shied away from, to make the planet a better place to live and breathe in its magic?

 

Just because trees can’t actually talk in the human tongue does not make them less important participants in our world. Indeed, we must advocate for them precisely because they do so much for us – give us fruits flowers, oxygen, shade and shelter – without asking for anything in return. Some important chapters in the book are structured in the same fashion as classroom lectures in the Gurukul where Tiny children are taught life’s precious lessons.

The Tiny teachers stress the importance of trees, animals, and even bugs and insects, in the green world revolving all around us. I believe that this mode of instruction is best suited to explaining the various, rich aspects of nature to our children. The Tiny creatures consider the trees their home, fight for its rights in a voiceless world, and make us look deep inside ourselves to understand how we can make the planet a better place to live and breathe in its magic.

 

Love and gratitude

V

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Interview: A Festivelle celebrating BossLady Shruti Seth


There is something very effortless and chirpy about Shruti Seth, gelling and flitting effortlessly with an easy demeanor, being at her candid best on social media where she plays an active role. The best thing about the actor is that she doesn’t flinch in calling a spade a spade.  Sporting her jaunty acuity on her sleeve, down-to-earth and portraying easily the girl next door, Shruti may be an enigma to decode but comes as a real-life stunner.

Is there a 90s kid ushering into 2000 who can feign ignorance on the telly show Shararat? Right, Shruti became a household name as Jiya Malhotra and went on to play in several potboilers such as Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part 2, Rajneeti, Slumdog Millionaire and Fanaa, the sitcom Rishta.com, TV host for popular shows such as Comedy Circus, Comedy Nights Bachao and had a first stint with Channel V as VJ.

There is no pretense about Shruti in this tete a tete where she narrates the idea behind #Festivelle, a 2-day fest celebrating women, the ‘SHE’ in all moods, co-curated with good friend Gul Panag.  She says with vim, “Festivelle is derived from the word, Fest & Elle, the latter translating to ‘She’ in French, basically a Festival for Women.”

At a time when women are pitted against each other, Festivelle as a concept comes with a clear voice on the need to come together, posing as each other’s strength in creating a niche for the sisterhood spanning across various walks of life.

Shruti enumerates on the project and shares, “Both Gul and I thought that Festivelle would be a great platform in bringing women together to enjoy and unwind themselves without the worry about being pawed and mauled as what ends up happening in most festivals. Our constant efforts whittle down to be behind the vast women talent in whatever length we can and help buck and promote the tribe. A sheer belief that the time is ripe for women to deepen the collaboration with each other since it’s the only way for us coming together as a force to increase our numbers in all respective businesses.”

Curators of Festivelle, Shruti Seth and Gul Panag posing.

The movement has been making waves on social media with #bossladies trending all over the place in hailing the gang of girls spanning across several various walks of life coming as a united force.  What became a razzle-dazzle in the nick of time is credited to the strong belief for women to stand tall as a rock pillar of support for each other.

The actor says: “Both Gul and I firmly believe in standing together strong and always maintaining that women can lend the greatest support to the other and we don’t see why there should never be a reason to celebrate women and their many achievements. Hence, #BossLady.”

A crowd-sourced 2-day event, Festivelle sums up in celebrating the SHE, today’s modern women where there is no dearth of topic be it gender, music and art extravaganza firming the bond. Shruti recalls Festivelle hosted in 2016 was a 2-day festival open to all the ladies, she says, where the aim was in reaching out to women and gauge what they would look forward in a women’s sole festival. She intones, “That’s how we set up the 2-day festival in 2016 but we have decided to alter the DNA a bit. It remains inherently a women-only fest but hoping to bring an added edge by engaging with our community throughout the year through a slew of small curated events before hitting it off with a big tent pole.”

In 2018, smaller events will be unfurled for curated female guests. Similar to 2016, the open to all tent pole event will again take place at the end of the year but, till then, it is not a public event.

“The idea is to stay alive online through the year and simply put, we don’t need to restrict ourselves or confine our actions with the community just once in a yearly basis. The aim is to curate events every single time of the year,” Shruti says.

The 2016 edition of Festivelle remains entrenched in the calendar that was held on December 17 and 18. This year, altogether, the first event, #BossLady was curated in recognition of female achievers being on top of their games and foraying as successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs, says Shruti.

She announces the next campaign in offing will be on Health and Fitness, adding, “Together with Gul, I have a firm belief in staying fit and it’s where women must pay heed to their physicality for strength, health and fitness cannot be traded for anything else. In the same vein, we want to try to rely on the influence of our peers and women we look up to, to help motivate their fellow sisters to give health topmost priority.

It’s been two years of Festivelle which is already bustling with a line up of activities as Shruti tells that the next 2 months is brimming with chattering up on their respective social media handles regarding health & fitness and wellness, as a whole.

As we look forward in welcoming 2019, it surely looks promising with an offline event towards Mid-February with a healthy and scrumptious brunch at a 5-star hotel with the added bonus being health experts interacting with and addressing guests during the afternoon time.

Like for every curated platform fired up with ambitions has its own set of challenges, starting with pooling of funds which remain an issue that Shruti agrees. She explains, “Everyone wants to know why men are not allowed, for instance. Yes, it gets quite tricky but at the same time we are fortunate of having some great partnerships with leading brands coupled with a pretty good turn out not only in 2016 but for our first outing of 2018 Boss Lady, when we garnered the support of Audi and The A has been gracefully and kind in offering us the venue.”

Festivelle has etched some great partnerships with leading names such as Audi, The A, Jacob’s Creek, Brancott Estate, Radio One, Colours Infinity, Just Herbs, Da Milano, Bombay Perfumery, Kaya, Nicobar, Tarz, Longchamp, Tablo & Invision that says a lot about the goodwill and credibility of the platform and its architects.

Actor on sets, Shruti Seth.

The belief in a project laden with long-term goals, says Shruti, is armed with the vision that doesn’t limit itself to entertainment but having as its USP the desire to help and promote women, pushing brands to hop on board quickly. The fact that both curators Gul and Shruti have the commitment of juggling homes, office and shoots can bear its own set of constraints but owing to a fantastic team spearheaded by Layal Ayoub ensured that the curators’ burden is alleviated.  Shruti says: “Layal is imbibed with unique qualities and single-handedly shoulders the entire load that keeps us stress-free in building Festivelle. We are constantly looking for women supporting our initiative and it gives us happiness to have the unflinching and relentless support of Layal for Festivelle.”

Festivelle Boss Lady is fostering dialogues among women. Both Shruti and Gul are an intrinsic part of the Hindi Film industry that witnessed the #metoo campaign that many described as a game changer. The platform’s main takeaway, she says, is that women are plainly fed up.

“Women are fed up of being objectified and treated in a certain way, albeit, callous, of having to fight to earn what is their rightful place at the work sanctity. The problem has percolated for too long that we’ve had to scoff and laugh off, pretending that we don’t care over sexism or remarks of misogynist nature of being dealt with at every single day at work.” Shruti emphasizes.

“Women would like to be treated with the same amount of dignity and respect that their male counterparts receive. Having said that, the #metoo movement that initially gained a certain momentum seems to be losing a bit of ground.  The most important part is to keep going from strength-to-strength and making more noise to keep the impact alive so that it doesn’t turn into oblivion with people going back to their routine lives or it will turn out to be something which happened on one particular month in the year that was.”Shruti firmly believes that the campaign must have a longer leash to bear a bigger and lasting impact on workplace harassment.

At a time when we are witnessing raging issues such as unequal balance at workplace coupled with exploitation, harassment and patriarchy set against the #metoo context, can Festivelle play this role in giving women a voice calling for respect and consent? Shruti says with a flurry of honesty. “We are not taking a specific stand but what we are doing is pretty clear. Owing to the fact that we spearheaded Festivelle in itself affirms that we come from a place of privilege but at the same time we espouse values of a world where women are meted out equality.”

She adds that if in a small way, the platform can make a little dent in the universe, it will be an achievement in contributing something to the girls tribe. “Mostly, the women we engage with are already much empowered and we hope to keep engaging to ignite the fire inside each other that will have a trickledown effect on women’s lives. For us, it remains a huge contribution in itself,” Shruti says with a whip of hope and intelligence.

As a film and theatre personality, Shruti is always active on social media, particularly Twitter and she belongs to the horde of sane voices, never shy in speaking the truth where she is often at the receiving end of a chockfull idiosyncracies trolls. It gets very tough in battling for truth to prevail.

The actor takes it with a pinch of salt but emphasizing rightfully that the ordeal faced is no different from what it is for every single woman present on social media. Shruti remains unfazed, “The larger point is that one has to understand the clear modus operandi at play and once you’ve cracked the code, it doesn’t really affect you that much.” She has advice for both women and men facing the ire of pestilential voices, “Just go with your truth and don’t back down. I keep telling that you don’t have to get abusive or sink lower.” The actor quotes Michelle Obama, “When they go low, you go high.” As simple as she gets.

On the work front, Shruti has a line up of interesting projects on the anvil and she will soon be a judge on a reality show. Fans will see the star in an Amazon Prime Series and another non-fiction series slated for release in 2019. “Luckily, there are lots of super creative projects happening on the digital medium and let’s see what offers come rolling in the upcoming year”.

Shruti Seth is one brand name and a celebrity who is never shy in swaying to life’s ebbs and flows. The actor with an endearing presence having won our hearts as Jia Malhotra is constantly striving to make a difference through her co-curated project along with Gul Panag to make Festivelle a force to reckon with in years to come. Here’s wishing Shruti Seth and her entire team roaring success not only with Festivelle but also the interesting line up of film and web projects she is part of in the coming New Year.

Love

V

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Being Smita Patil: An Incandescence with Maithili Rao


INTERVIEW: MAITHILI RAO

 

There is a gazillion of stars who shine and look at us from the sky. We instantly recognize them for the place carved in our hearts. One among them is Smita Patil. The smoldering looks, haunting intensity flowing in the eye, aura, childlike demeanor and personality she commanded stay with us forever. It’s been 32 years since Smita Patil left us and today she would have been 63 today. In her entire career as an artist, she has had a tremendous impact on the viewer who would feel that Smita Patil is someone we know, is close to us and understand our emotions. Such has been my personal equation with her as a fan. I think we all do. I have discovered many of her films after her death and one cannot remain unaffected to the acting range she displayed, emotions, pain, love or the smile that haunts. Calling her a superstar would perhaps not honor Smita Ji as an actor since she didn’t confine herself to a cinema genre.

One of the most brilliant actors who sashayed on screen, I feel Smita Patil lived every role played on screen with this tremendous presence. The mark of a genius and an angel, perhaps too many of us. Call it my personal bias but I feel as an ardent lover of cinema that since her death, there hasn’t been anyone who has done her kind of cinema and it’s an impossible task to replace a Smita Patil on screen. Many fans keep falling in love with her, before or after her death, where she keeps earning admirers in drove. Even today, many among us feel the fact that she is not around is a personal loss and this is the kind connect we had with her as an artist.

Who was Smita Patil? An enigma, social activist, a misunderstood woman with a heart of gold and a strike of lightning sending the screen ablaze through one look capable to steal your attention. She was sheer magic on screen and a rare symbol of art cinema and commercial fares, who achieved the extraordinary in a short span of time in being a genius. Maithili Rao is a respected film critic, columnist and journalist, who was a jury member for National Awards as well as contributing chapters to books dedicated to Indian cinema. It couldn’t have been a better tribute to my favorite actress Smita Patil who lives forever in hearts by hosting her biographer, Maithili Rao ‘Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence.’ The reason she penned the biography, personal equation with Smita-Ji and what she could have been as an actor in today’s times.

Author and columnist Maithili Rao.

 

 1. December 13, 1986, will remain forever etched in the memory of Smita Patil fans, admirers, filmmakers, friends and immediate family. Your book, ‘A Brief Incandescence’ offers an emotional narration at the time of her death through testimonies of fans and writers which came as a wave of shock. As part of the research, would you say it’s impossible to fill this void and how would you see her today had she been alive as an artist?

 

It is truly impossible to fill the void she left in a brief, dazzling career. Hence, the reason, I call the book: “Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence.” By definition, Incandescence is unique to a person and irreplaceable.

Had she been alive today, she might have gone ahead to make films. Close friend, Aruna Raje spoke about Smita’s plans to be part of the directing team of Rihaee-a film which Aruna wrote, taking in mind Smita but was later made with Hema Malini. Aruna later conceded that it was a different film from what she has originally conceptualized.

Of course, the other possibility is that she could have gone on to become an activist. Director Shyam Benegal wrote in the book’s foreword that she had many interests and he was on tenterhooks every day while shooting Bhumika – would be turned up? He went on to say that it was Bhumika that convinced her to take acting seriously. Until then, it was something that happened by chance and she wasn’t really committed to it.

There are limitless possibilities but my gut feeling is that she would have continued acting and at least some directors would write films with her in mind.

 

2. In your book, you spoke about Smita Patil as Dasavatar and discussing the various performances in films like Jait re Jait, Bhumika, Bazar, Akaler Sandhane, Umbartha, Arth or commercial outings like Namak Halal and Shakti. Was she an artist in a hurry to do a plethora of roles combing art and commercial cinema, being a social critic in those days or a feminist through those roles and a misunderstood woman?

  She was all of these. In retrospect, Smita seemed to have some premonition that she had a short time left with lots of things to do.  Like many of her art film contemporaries, she tried to straddle between art and commercial cinema for a variety of reasons – to attract larger audiences to the parallel films she believed in because of her stardom in mainstream cinema. Also, the economic factor played a part. She did not hail from a wealthy family and financial security was important. Smita acted in so many films for free, like Bhavni Bhavai or the Kannada film Anweshane when she would travel to Mysore at her own expense for the shooting extended over time with many breaks taking place in between.

The fact that Smita adhered to the ideals of equality and social justice was part of her DNA but she brought the commitment to films centered on these themes. She was an immense support and help to the Women’s Forum and skeptical feminists believing that film star could be sincere when it came to gender justice and social work.

3. You asked a question in the book and I ask the same question to you: Was Smita Patil an unacknowledged genius and who would you pick up Smita, the star or Smita the actor?

 Did I say an unacknowledged genius? I think she was one of the few whose genius was recognized in her lifetime and early in her career. It’s another matter that Smita never had the usual, airs of a Hindi film star.

I would call her an actor who became a star but that did not diminish the actor in Smita. Even in her atrocious commercial films, you could see that she tried to bring the same intensity to her performance. Sometimes, this was against the grain of the film where others seemed to walk through the roles.

 

4. On a personal level, Smita Patil was anchored to her Puneri and Maharashtrian roots studying in the Marathi medium school Bhave Girls School but, ultimately, made the cut to the English medium at Fergusson College in Pune. How tough was it for her as a young girl to make this transition and eventually doing the rich body of work, albeit artistic films?

Smita stayed true to her roots even when she became a star in the Hindi film industry. Anita (Smita Patil’s sister) has spoken about both (Smita’s and hers) their difficulties when they shifted to Bombay, having to adapt to the English medium. There was the usual South Bombay snooty crowd at Xaviers’ who looked down on her accent. Both sisters were resilient. Don’t forget that Smita became a minor celebrity as a newsreader on Bombay TV when she was still a teenager.

I wrote in my book how she wore a striking appearance on B &W TV with a vibrant and compelling voice that enraptured viewers.  Filmmakers as different as Shyam Benegal, Dev Anand and even Manoj Kumar were all impressed enough to offer her roles. Benegal was the first and her mother had to do a bit convincing for Smita to give it a shot. Sound recordist Hitendra Ghosh, became a family friend and Vidyatai (Smita Ji’s Mom) was very fond of this lean Bengali who brought Benegal to meet the family. They were impressed by Benegal – his education, cultured personality – to give the go ahead.

It was serendipity that there were so many remarkable filmmakers working at that time so Smita had an opportunity to work with the best. Sometimes people are lucky to be born at the right time at the right place and meet the right people.

 

5. From what we have read in the book, the formative years in her life bore a large influence where she was a part of the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD) along with her sister. What has been the influential role RSD played in her personal life, including respect for all faiths and every human being irrespective of social class?  

For a family with a secular, progressive ideology who lived in Maharashtra at that time, Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD) became an integral part of their children’s upbringing. Smita’s father, Shivajirao Patil who was part of the freedom movement as a teenaged student, spoke about how RSD sought to inculcate ideas of equality and secularism among children. The aim was to negate the RSS who believed in catching them young. So the Seva Dal took children all over Maharashtra and India during holidays to perform in plays, folk dances and songs. This not only shaped Smita’s personality as a child but also formed lifelong friendships pretty much like her bond with Jhelum Paranjpye – Odissi dancer and teacher who runs Smitalaya named after Smita. What she learned during her years with the Seva Dal stayed with Smita all her life. Once, she went and hugged a young man who was working as a make-up assistant when she came across him in a studio. Smita was a star then and the poor chap was embarrassed. Another instance came later when Smita used to drop by to see how the sea-facing apartment she bought in Mumbai was coming up. She would serve the workers chai herself and sip her own glass of tea together with them. Smita wanted to have them as the first guests for a meal once the flat was completed. Sadly, she died before she could move into the house.

 

6. The films that she has been part of such as Nishant, Mandi, Mirch Masala and Kondura was ahead of times in addressing sexual fantasies in the face of celibacy. Yet, that didn’t deter her from entering the mainstream cinema and what would you say on the questionable choice of roles in some mediocre projects, a tale of filmmakers misusing her talent?

 Recognizing and empowering sexuality in a repressive society was very much an inherent part of parallel cinema and specifically, female sexuality as a subject was explored as an intrinsic aspect of a woman’s being. But, filmmakers like Benegal, Ketan Mehta and Aravidan also used the theme as a wider metaphor.

It was not only a Namak Halal that exploited her sex appeal in the rain song sequence, ‘Aaj Rapat Jaye’ but also the arthouse Chakra did it, much to the consternation of her admirers and feminists. It was a tricky negotiation for Smita. Chakra centered on the slum setting where women had to bathe under a tap in the open which was very much part of everyday reality whereas mainstream films were in the “knowing” and calculated in tapping this aspect of her image.

7. As an actor, she was accused by her peers of betraying her art for money when she forayed into commercial films. I personally think she made an extremely valid point ‘it’s a way of getting a bigger audience for art cinema once its actors become stars of mainstream films’ yet a dichotomy when in a conversation with Amitabh Bachchan, she told him ‘I don’t fit into it…my world view of art is different.’ Your thoughts?

This is a dilemma that many actors of parallel cinema faced. Yes, she was really convinced that being a star would attract the audience to her art films. When she had to do the song with Bachchan in Namak halal, she felt very awkward and uncomfortable. She wept after going home, her mother said. Smita had to reconcile many contradictions in her life. It takes immense courage to admit the contradictions and live with them. She was honest about this as in so many other things.

 

8. There is not a character that Smita Patil couldn’t have played and seen as an effervescent person who would light up a room with her presence. Can you recollect your personal experience of watching the artist perform on screen during the younger days and meeting her as a person or put it that way, what was that one thing that pushed you to write A Brief Incandescence?

Like I confessed in my book, I never met her. It was a conscious choice made to stay away from film stars and interviews etc. In hindsight, I realize the loss was mine.

As for what made me write the book, it was the impact Smita had on me while watching her films, both art and commercial outings. You just couldn’t take your eyes away from her when she lit up the screen with that extraordinary presence. This intensity seemed to have seeped into my subconscious. I felt bereft and bereaved when she died as if someone really close had left the world so shockingly, so suddenly.

 

9. What is this one thing about her that even after her death three decades later, there is such a huge emotional connect with Smita Patil as an artist that she keeps drawing fans-those who witnessed the growth of the Smita years of acting and ones who became a fan after her death?

 Once again, the intensity that she brought to her characters. Smita made you feel about knowing that woman on screen, her fears and hopes, her vulnerability and strength. It is amazing how many people I have met told me that they want to see all her films again after reading my book. And, themuch younger crowd said that she is their favorite actor. For those who saw her films when they were made said that it carried such a tremendous impact that they can never forget her.  Those haunting eyes and expressive face, the voice, all conveyed honesty and the integrity of being her.

 

10. There are not many among us who knew that Smita Patil was a painter Photographer until you mentioned in the book and her work was showcased in Mumbai. What made her so underwhelming and the refusal to compete to stake her rights and was she the answer to mainstream, albeit the angry young man of yesteryearS, one fighting the system and the other doing roles on women empowerment?

 She was a photographer, not a painter. (I stand corrected here, Maithili Ma’am). Smita was inseparable from her camera and loved shooting people, the urge to capture the essential person and not just the external image. A complete natural behind the camera in the same fashion she was in front of it.

If I understand your second question correctly, as an actor she did not believe in competition. She was totally involved with her work and felt betrayed when a role promised to her by a well-known director went to a rival. Benegal calls her guileless and her sister Anita says she did not know how to manipulate the system.

Smita made her mark as a woman fighting for her rights and to live on her own terms not only on the screen but off screen as well. The films she did redefine the Indian woman with all her complexities. That is her lasting and significant contribution to our cinema.

Love

V

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Food voyage: A Grandmother Hack with Kavita Devgan


Remember our delectable food palate in childhood concocted with grandmotherly love to whip a food haven and a perfect storm beating the fever hands down, saving a dreaded trip away from the doctor’s injection. The infallible grandmother hack, a maven of sort is back with a bang blowing every known ailment into smithereens.

Celebrity nutritionist, columnist and author Kavita Devgan posing with her book, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks.

Our own desi celebrity nutritionist, Kavita Devgan who is eponymous with excellence and the who’s who in glamour and wellness swearing by her name dabbles into a multitude of things, right from being a popular journalist, columnist for leading publications, brand ambassador for healthy products and panelist comes with her second book, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks. The book is already getting rave reviews after her first outing, ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’ hit the bull’s eye.

In this hearty tete-a-tete, Kavita bares it all on what went behind writing the Ultimate Grandmother Hacks serving as a tribute to the old granny’s wisdom. She calls her new book as, “A compilation of habits I grew with and consider as super healthy, time-tested food habits to groom a cohesive lifestyle. It’s all about rediscovering the joy in eating.”

The nuggets not of munching a bite at KFC but wisdom are found plenty in the book, discussing at length the various foods and habits followed to the hilt by our grandparents and parents are as relevant today as it were before. “I basically didn’t want us and the next generation to put them into oblivion the age-old wisdom and hence, incepted the tricks in the book. This constitutes the drive behind its making,” she elaborates.

Ultimate Grandmother Hacks.

The prolific health consultant has a career spanning over 20 years, having built a solid reputation in wellness the right way, contributing significantly to alter lifestyle by innovating big time through cutting-edge, customized but down-to-earth programmes. Like many, Kavita has an interesting story laden with an anecdote to tell where she almost wore the white gown in hospitals.

She quips: “Well! My Dad wanted me to become a doctor and I even took up bio in plus two which shows my love for the subject. He was really keen but by the time, I finished my 12th standard, I already made my mind. Medicine would not be the next step!”

“I wasn’t very sure what to pursue but somehow it became crystal clear of not seeing myself as a doctor. My Dad tried to coax me. I resisted and finally got my way.”

One can well sense that Kavita was quite the rebel and she gets candid, “Once I make up my mind, I stick to it. The rest followed. She studied Home science (Hons) with specialization in nutrition at Delhi University which was, ‘More interesting than other Science streams like Botany and Zoology.”

Kavita found her ‘mojo’ like a delectable plate for which she thanks God as, ‘love at first lesson for me.’ “The potential of prevention dawned upon and was as sure as hell to what I wanted to do. What helped was that I was naturally inclined or put it this way, maybe a healthy eater owing to my genes and mom’s effort making me a good fit.”

Kavita Devgan.

Post-graduation, the diet connoisseur topped it up with a specialization in Dietetics and Public health nutrition. An internship followed at Safdurjung Hospital giving her the first career exposure before becoming a qualified dietician. She was ready to embrace this tryst with destiny.

Ultimate Grandmother Hacks is a blend of the old school and modern methods, serving as the yummiest topping and irresistible in inculcating time-tested food habits in our lifestyle forming the taste bud.  The book, she says, was brewing in her mind for quite some time and wasn’t really an uphill task to pen. The idea of selling old age hacks remained an important challenge, though. Kavita says, “The complex task was to make the hacks inviting and doable to the present generation…I wanted to shatter the myth that old advice is impractical, time-consuming and tough to follow.” The trick lies in diligently cherry picking 50 habits in the book that today’s generation wouldn’t reject outright. She calls them, ‘a treasure trove that made it a smooth sailing affair.”

We live in the age of social media and internet where every single bit of information about proper diet is obtained at one click. How does one become discernible when it comes to the truckload of proper diet and nutrition in making the balancing act, whittling down to eating right and proper? Kavita doles out a simple advice: “Always follow common sense and only believe information hailing from a professional having recognized medicinal and nutritional qualifications responding to your needs and common sense. Most importantly, take it up only if it speaks to you in such a way ensuring follow-up for the long-term.

We live in hectic times warranting a change in a crazy routine, food habits and to trim the fats building inside the body. When it comes to dieting and proper nutrition, there are huge misconceptions wrecking our world. “Ah yes, most of us got our fundas all wrong,” Kavita tells. “Dieting has been giving a wrong connotation and it doesn’t mean giving up on food but replacing bad ones with the good. Fact remains that we need to stop bringing focus on calories only but train our guns on nutrients. The moment we do that and plating ‘good for us food’, calories will take care of themselves. You lose weight automatically,” she asserts.

Her first book, ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’ garnered several accolades for proper and healthy lifestyle making the D-word for dieting easy. The author believes the book worked because of its real and down-to-earth approach. “In the book, I’ve woven together the simple good habits observed during my practice which worked. The methods are not only time-tested but practical advice helping people to stay thin.”

“I firmly believe people are becoming increasingly tired of impractical, silly fad diets that only mess up their health and the book’s USP was its reliable factor felt by readers in dishing out doable advice…I guess the reason it got unprecedented love.”

It’s been two years since ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’ was out and Kavita says, people still come to her and telling the impact it had on them to alter their health and losing weight for the better.

It’s all about breaking a myth and decoding the person behind the name. Kavita Devgan calls herself, ‘a very liberal dietician’ who doesn’t believe in ‘All’ or ‘Nothing approach’ but rather the answer lies somewhere in between.

“The inner core belief is all about practicing moderation and serving as the answer to everything,” she says. The mantra and advice to everyone is, “More of the good and less of the bad.” She has a tale to narrate: “In the start, I had people coming to me and telling they find it difficult to wrap around the head that I let them eat everything, and worry about actually putting on weight instead of losing. But, slowly they understand this is the right way,” she muses.

The next time you try to resist the temptation of munching on the sweet or yummy dish, remember the quintessential food date with Kavita Devgan and old age ‘Ultimate Grandmother Hacks.’ As good as it gets, the Kavita way!

You got a date with the Ultimate Grandmother Hacks and click on Amazon and Flipkart to book your space.

 

Nutri Shot/Tips!

 

Morning breakfast:

A combo of high quality protein, complex carbohydrate and good fat. Egg with some oats, few nuts or a tbsp of roasted seeds.

 

Dieting means:

Focussing on nutrition -quality more than quantity.

 

Afternoon snacks:

Always a fruit; this is the best time to eat a portion of mandatory fruit.

 

Grandmother Hacks vs modern day pills:

Our grandmothers somehow already knew (though logic and common sense) what modern science is only now discovering.

 

Being Healthy means:

Waking up with a spring in your feet every morning and having boundless energy through the day. Making it an everyday affair.

 

First thing you have in the morning:

Lots of water.

 

Your food consists of:

A little of everything.

 

Three nutrition tips in a day:

Get in enough protein,fats and fibre; ensure enough antioxidants and micro nutrients, and eat something raw everyday to score good enzymes.

 

If you were a food, you’d be:

Water. Because it’s life.

 

Kavita Devgan in three words:

Passionate about prevention.

 

With love

V

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Decoding live wire and electrified soul Brand Vinita Vyas


Interview: Vinita Vyas, Film maker, theatre person and author of Reinventing Brand You-The Theater Way

 

Vinita Vyas. at the book signing of Reinventing Brand You-The Theatre Way.

William Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage”. As we celebrate India’s Independence Day, what does it means to be a free and unique entity to immerse oneself and giving abundant love to the universe. Theatre, acting or writing helps an artist to showcase the various facets of roles, showering love to millions, flitting into different costumes yet staying true to oneself.  Mumbai based Vinita Vyas is one such soul wearing different hats in a lifetime but has forayed into a journey which is no less than a magic pill to be one with herself. She has been an inspiration to me, a free giver of love and I am in awe of her unflinching belief of intimate love showered to strangers in this ecosystem we called World.  What if our life was a pantomime set to channel our energies and injecting energy into an art form? Vinita is grounded and imbibed with the value taught by her Dad and she is spreading the same to people around her in transforming lives. There is not one role that she restricts herself to. The artist who dabbles into several exciting and creative ventures right from theatre artist, creative director, NLP practitioner and producer has seen the nitty gritty of the corporate world before foraying into her passion, theatre. Being an intrinsic part of Darpan Theatre & Cine Arts, Mumbai, the creative artist often uses theatre as an art form to channel energy and helping participants to turn adversity into strength and overcoming the tide conquering the demons.

The author of ‘Reinventing Brand You-The Theatre Way’ reminds us that we are actors on this huge set design called ‘Life’ where impressions are formed every nanosecond. Be the spectator and the actor! Vinita’s Brand You is about the self-image, visual image and perceived image. In a chat with Vinita, I bring to you her achievements as an artist, theatre person and now author to celebrate a woman who sparkles, a unique individual for Independence also means setting the soul free and breaking the mold of a defined image. It’s about the love for plain strangers, giving freely, theatre as an art form and of course, Vinita’s book, Reinventing Brand You-The Theater way where she offers an insight into its making. Sit back and enjoy this transformative journey.

 

Artist and creator of Brand You, Vinita Vyas.

 

  1. Vinita Vyas is a brand. What has gone into the creation of this brand right from business solutions, actor, creative director, producer, NLP and now writer?

 

The passionate purpose which guides me emanate from the words of my father, “Beta, Stay rooted with ‘beyond skies’ being your limit”.

I have always believed in adhering to the personal values in every role donned. My journey keeps verging from one character to the other, however, the core values that I choose to live by remain the same. I have always been fascinated by the vividness of this stage called Life and how different people play their respective roles on and off the stage. And my constant calling has always been towards the purpose of a life enshrined in expressing myself and helping people, my fellow travelers to express themselves totally. It’s the values-driven passionate purpose that made me who I am through my journey so far.

 

  1. People buy People First, Feel Fully…Express Totally and of course Brand you-The Theater Way. How has this ‘intimate journey’ transformed your life as an individual and was it the true calling for you in reaching out to fellow humans?

 

Vishal, I can say that this journey has made me more humane, helping to reach within and know myself better as an entity. I was able to pull out the untold stories from my life and that’s what drives me to inspire my fellow travelers in telling their stories.

 

 

  1. Reinventing Brand you-The Theater Way is about the self-image, visual image and perceived image. How can the real person come alive through the stage character and artists calling the shots in this vibrant adventure that can make or break us?

 

In my book Reinventing Brand You – The Theatre Way, I spoke about the practical techniques that actors use to bring life into a character. The techniques empower and touch the commoners to practice and build their brand value in a creative way.

 

  1. The book appears seemingly to be a mantra in self-development while tapping the inner potential which is often hidden or laden with emotions and challenges at the same time. Was theatre and acting your inner calling as emboldened in your book to transforms lives?

 

Yes, certainly, it does. For me, the most important learning curve during live theatre is simple and the mantra is to be an actor both on and off stage.  One has to be a genuine human being first. It’s a simple mantra: Only by being true to understanding and acknowledging the emotions and challenges the character goes through then only I can find myself in this space of self-awareness and it’s where self-improvisations crop in. Isn’t it?

 

Lights! Camera! Action! Director Vinita call the shots!

  1. You have spoken about your favourite Amitji, Mr. Amitabh Bachhchan the country’s biggest superstar who has reinvented and redefined himself beyond the traditional superstar to break an established image. Behavioral congruency in verbal, visual and vocal, how does it help when you say jo dikhta hai wohi bikhta hai as the individual’s USP in terms of core values one stands up for?

 

Credibility is lent only to One’s visual image ideally when it is based on self-image. What I mean is to be exactly who you truly are and anything becomes believable only when expressed genuinely and in a clear, articulate fashion. Your thoughts and feelings when manifested through the physical and vocal presence make you more of an in-charge of who you are as ‘Brand You.’

 

  1. You boast of an incredible achievement of 13 plus years in the corporate world and cinema. Would you say the techniques applied to weather storms in both your personal and professional life has led you to successfully grow into the refined person that you have become?

 

Being refined (if world assumes me to be) is a process and not a destination/product…so still refining. Multitude of experiences at every step taken are echoed in my life’s journey which helped me to nurture the personal thought process and gave me newer pathways to navigate my ‘self’ on the roads in life. To share an experience, theatre taught me the highest levels of flexibility and its applicability in emotional wisdom.

The warrior weaving stories to a rapt audience.

  1. You are also an associate director for the Hindi film, Take it Easy, Executive director, AD for film projects, staging 18 full-length drama and 5 short plays. How has the journey of foraying into entertainment, theatre or acting started and what does finding expression into the fine arts means to you or the way it has molded Vinita the artist?

 

The journey unfolded during the college days while directing my first Hindi play for an inter-college drama competition. However, the tryst with destiny was fuelled into my blood before I was born. My father along with his elder brother founded a local community theatre club, “Krishna Club” to stage mythological dramas such as “Ramleela” and the likes. My brother, Sunil Prem Vyas who is an award-winning filmmaker carried forward this legacy by founding Darpan Theatre & Cine Arts, Mumbai, which eventually I became a part of.

 

Expression into fine arts and particularly acting satiates the soul endlessly to lead a life filled with fulfillment. Acting has defined me to live many lives and showcase multiple emotions in one life to make it an enriching experience which I enjoy to the hilt as an artist.

 

  1. You have also conducted a series of behavioral skills workshop and some of your interesting articles posted on Linkedin discuss theatre sports, using stage as a pro or adding a little drama to the coaching journey which makes for kick-ass ways. Can you share the way in which participants look at the workshop journey and methods employed to help overcome hesitation or ingrained fear to slay the inner demons like they say?

 

The most common reaction garnered from participants is that the “Expressive Arts Inspired” workshops are super fun and full of self re-realizations for them. Arts give the participants a different lens to perceive the same situation and serve as an enabler to-many-a-times live an experience they may have to in future. Experiences fleshed in a controlled environment act as “net practice” for them to be trained for the final game. We resort to various techniques through mediums of theatre sports as warm-up games, Improvisational theatre games like icebreakers, forum theatre, visual arts, storytelling, narrative psychology, pantomime, and many to help participants get comfortable under their skin and have deeper transformational experiences.

 

  1. You have also offered consultancy services to several leading brands such as PwC, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India, Virgin Mobile India, Maruti Suzuki and Network 18. What are the takeaways that one can learn at the individual capacity from the corporate and challenges faced that you tried to inject in say, theatre or personal coaching?

 

In my book, the dire need for “Emotional Wisdom and “Branding Oneself” are very crucial in today’s ever-changing business environment.

 

  1. In today’s time, what are the challenges theatre actors or production companies’ face and the ways in which this art form can be encouraged and given dignity or sheen to attract young talents?

 

The challenges revolve around arranging finances for productions especially when you don’t have a godfather in the industry. And, yes, I would always encourage budding young talents to leap ahead and trudge to build or actively participate in community theatre.

 

  1. I have followed you on Facebook and regularly see how you freely share about life, love and intimacy which make you a free giver of emotions. What makes you so free and limitless in giving love, often intimacy spreading out to plain strangers and how you open your heart out so easily?

 

My belief is very simple, Vishal. I am a deeply involved, engaged soul sharing love in abundance with millions. I don’t know whether they reciprocate or not. It’s beyond me to know whether they like me or not, but have a fabulous love with just about everyone that I see and cannot see because for me, love is not about them. Love is about how I am within myself…….it is a sense of oneness with this universe.

 

  1. As a parting shot, what message you would like to readers after the publication of your book, Reinventing Brand You and what went into its making?

 

I would like each and every reader not let anyone else hold the pen as they weave their unique story of “Brand You.”

Knowing who you truly are in each role essayed on this stage called life is the stepping stone to designing, “Brand You.” Like they say, “jo dikhta hai, woh hi bikta hai”, I am inviting my readers to most genuinely feel the values they believe in for every role and portray the same in everyday behaviour. It’s the secret garden of a fulfilling life.

 

What went into the making of “Brand You” is tracking my own personal growth and life as a coach to myself and pen the very essence of more 12 to 15 years of a professional cum personal life.

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On the move with Wayfaring Tikuli Dogra


Tikuli Dogra is no stranger to words and poetry which she spurns to perfection on her blog. She doesn’t need an introduction for her poetry work and short stories have been published in various media outlets and and literary magazine in India and across the globe such as The Smoking Book, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Guntur National Poetry Festival Anthology and the much acclaimed Chicken Soup For The Indian Romantic Soul, Silence Is White, Melange, and kaafiyana. The author whose first book was ‘Collection of Chaos’ way back in 2014 speaks about her latest poetry book, ‘Wayfaring’ where she bears her heart open in a heart-warming chat about how she channels pain and angst into poetry.

You can check the author’s page on Goodreads, follow her on Twitter and your copy of Wayfaring on Amazon. 

Tikuli Dogra/Image credit: Author’s FB page.

  1. Your poetry book, ‘Wayfaring’ brings to form various layers of emotions right from pain to relationships, travel and the angst of exile. Can you share the journey behind the making of the book?

Most of the poems in this book were written over a period of time and not specifically with a book in mind. Some were published in various Indian and international journals over a period of few years. When it was time for another book of my poems my idea was to try to be forward-looking. My first book ‘Collection of Chaos’ was cathartic in many ways and for this new book I wanted to experiment with forms and explore other areas of my life that had brought calm and positivity to that chaos. I began to write poems that were more than just elegiac. There is a good measure of anger in Wayfaring’, a form of protest. There is a constant intermingling of past and present in this collection, a sense of a renewed nostalgia for things that are lost and the excitement for the new beginnings. So, ‘Wayfaring’ is essentially about movement. It is about journeys, both physical and metaphysical. The poems have both history and landscape running through them. Most of the poems are reflections of my own journey as a woman, lover, dreamer, wanderer and storyteller.

 

  1. The human soul is lonely even when surrounded by a gamut of feelings and emotions inhabited by ordinary mortals. As a poet, what part loneliness played in your life that found expression and the right tune in your writing?

Loneliness has played a major role in most of my writing, especially for my two books of poetry. Acceptance of who we are and where we are makes it easy to see what’s beyond grief and sadness. There is so much we miss out on when we are constantly mulling over the past. I have experienced what it is from both sides and Wayfaring is the result of a much more positive attitude towards myself and to life in general.  One must never lose the sense of possibilities. That’s the healing that comes from within. I have tried to work that around in the poems in ‘Wayfaring’. Most of the poems in the book are intensely personal and at times I have used nature or another element as a mask to enable me to write about private feelings but mostly the poems are all about ‘laying bare’, befriending oneself and realizing that this difficult phase in life is intrinsic to being alive. This shift in thinking changed my perspective completely and when you read the poems you will see what I mean.

 

  1. You have published a host of poems in several publications and penned several articles on sensitive issues such as child abuse and gender. How much of the pain incurred by victims has influenced your work of poetry?

 

It is difficult to feel the trauma and pain of someone who has gone through abuse of any kind. The impact of any sort of violation can be considerable and each survivor has his/her own theory of pain which is tough to express to others and yet  their stories need to be told, they need to be passed on to the next generation and to everyone who will read them, through poetry and prose. The pain, the longing, the suffering, everything must be taken forward and never forgotten. I have had my share of violations and maybe that connected me more closely to others who had suffered. Poetry is also a form of protest and as poets it is our responsibility to keep writing about all the social issues that matter and voice our anger where and when required.

 

  1. Your first book, a collection of poems, ‘Collection of Chaos’ first hit the stands in 2014. Would you say that Wayfaring is a sequel to the first book and what defines this unique collection of poetry?

I won’t say it is a sequel to ‘Collection of Chaos’ but yes, it takes up from where the pain ends.  Over the years my urge to pour out angst has receded and I began to explore the beauty of life through words even when those words touch on past events. I wrote these poems to break through the barriers that fill us and surround us, to harness the pain and use it to create something beauteous. It was a challenge I was keen to take up and it is what makes the book unique.

 

  1. For many poets, there is something deep and soulful or scars which marks a turning a point to channelize energies into words. What was it in your case?

 

A lot of losses at personal level especially the loss of my first love and then my unsatisfactory and troubled marriage, the daily search for myself, a woman lost under the layers of responsibilities, made me channel my energies into words. I had to fight for my freedom and dignity at many levels and needed to be heard and understood. Blogging helped me do that a great deal, long before I became a published author. Turning life experiences into verses and speaking about one’s open wounds is always difficult and yet therapeutic at the same time. There were times I left the poems unfinished to collect myself and come back to them with a calm and focused approach. I have learned to make vulnerability my strength. In the last ten years I have slowly released the past hurts, angst, anger and sorrow so that I can give way to something more positive and essential to the art of living and learning.

PS: The interview was done via email with Tikuli Dogra.

Love

V