Saturday, 19 August 2017

Women Writer’s Fest by She the People Team

It was a beautiful sunny day. I was kicked about attending the Women Writer’s Fest organized by She the people team. With a spring in our steps, My colleague Nupur and I reached the venue. The first session of the day was about to start. The hall was tastefully decorated with artifacts and knick knacks. Looked like a perfect venue for an insightful event like this one. The audience appeared to be an eclectic mix of women, both young and old, excited to hear the panel discussions.

Panel 1 How to blog to the right audience
Moderator - Richa Singh

Richa started the discussion by introducing herself. She has been a blogger for close to a decade and is an entrepreneur for two years. (She has built a bloggers community by the name blogchatter)

Richa started the discussion by asking the panelists about useful tips for budding bloggers. One by one, the lovely ladies shared the unique and personal choices that they had made in their blogging/ Instagramming journey.

Aashna shared how it is important for her to stick to one theme, have short-term (read weekly) and long term goals. Reema Sathe shared how she likes to connect with people and how inspired she feels by connecting with startup founders on LinkedIn and meeting them personally. The fitness blogger Protima shared how she relies on her storytelling abilities and personal fitness journey. Most of her blog topics are from FAQs. She also stressed on the need to stick to one’s niche. Richa added that one should consume a lot of content in the genre/ niche that one is trying to create. Richa’s tip was like a cherry on top of all the other suggestions.

Different topics like Content Marketing, Analytics, Keywords, Hashtags, etc. came up. Based on their experience, they all shared useful insights. One common fact that they all stressed was that blogging is a lot of hard work and no one gets overnight success. 

Aashna summed it aptly “It is very beautiful when career and passion come together.”

More tips followed when Aashna shared that she has noticed that her posts get maximum traction at around noon, so she schedules her efforts accordingly. When the session was open for Q and A, a few people were concerned about plagiarism and how their content is being copy pasted by others. To which Richa assertively replied that 'Name Shame' is one route that you should not shy away from. Tag such people on social media platforms and force them to give you due credit for your work. Point taken Lady!

After this interesting session, Radhika came up on stage for a quick round of quiz. She was full of energy and ensured that the audience was engaged while the organizers got the stage ready for the next discussion. I also noted that Radhika had her 6-month-old baby who had accompanied mommy to work. He behaved zen-like, quite unlikely for his age. And the mom was cool as a cucumber, doing her job as a professional and tending to the baby when required. She played both roles effortlessly. That's what they call - An empowered woman!

Panel 2 Legacy for our daughters
Panelists - Anu Aga, Rashmi Shukla
Moderator - Sudha Menon

I have read a lot about Anu and immensely admire her, so I was looking forward to attending her session. She was wearing a light green colored saree and looked stunning in it. Simply stating, she is grace personified. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her strong opinions on most matters. On being asked about what legacy she passed on her to her daughter, she said that she never passed on different messages to her son and daughter. On being probed about the legacy that her mother had passed onto her, she revealed that she was told that her purpose in life was to marry and produce. It was only because of her husband who nurtured her and encouraged her to use her potential.

On questions of gender biases, she said you are a human being first, and the only difference she thinks between men and women is in the plumbing. She stated that we should not restrict ourselves because of cultural biases. On work-life balance, she said we are fortunate that in India we have so much help in the form of joint family, domestic servants, etc. She said cheekily “Make shameless use of all the help!”

She also said that virginity is the stupidest thing in this world. She wondered aloud about how men could get on with promiscuity and women can’t.

She spoke about how women needlessly put it on themselves to be perfectionists. She urged everyone to live with their imperfections. Her session was interspersed with quotable quotes like

I am not perfect. I know I am a lot of shit, but my shit doesn’t smell as bad as it used to.”

She said women should learn to be kind and loving to themselves. She shared that her daughter knows only 4-5 dishes, which also she messes up many times. But that is alright. How I wish my mom could say that proudly on a public platform!!
Simply loved her for her positivity, humility, and opinions!

Pune’s top cop Rashmi Shukla joined the discussion. She was late. Understandably so. She is busy in planning the law and order situation in the city during the upcoming Ganpati celebrations. Rashmi came across as an incredibly understanding and approachable officer. She also shared interesting information about her liberal upbringing and later her marriage in a traditional brahmin family. She spoke about how she wears a saree and covers her head when she is in the village with her in-laws. And easily slips into her uniform when she is in the city. She explained that she would like to honor their traditions and since she is there in the village only for a couple of days, it's not that difficult. She asked us to be modern in our thoughts and not only in our attire. Looks like she is doing exactly that!

Speaking about her legacy for her daughter she says the moment you are out of the house, you have to fend for yourself. She shared an incident where her daughter was being stalked by a colleague., who would keep asking her to talk to him. As a police officer mum, Rashmi could have pulled some strings, but she wanted her daughter to be self-reliant.

She told her daughter that next time your colleague asks you to talk to you, you turn your chair towards him, look into the eye and raise your voice and ask “Why should I talk to you? Why do you keep telling me to do that?’ The daughter mustered all the courage and did just that. The guy was embarrassed as hell. Other colleagues joined for help. The HR came in. That guy apologized and in a few days quit. 

What a beautiful lesson Rashmi taught her daughter and us. Take charge. Be confident.
Rashmi urged us to download the City Safe app, her initiative of making the city safe for each one of us.

After these sessions, we felt charged and inspired. They say what shapes your personality is the kind of conversations you have and the thoughts you feed your mind. Ahem! We are moving in the right direction!

If any of you was there at the event and would like to add your experience at the event, please do so by sharing your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

My Experience at the Youth Conclave on 'Innovation, Intuition and Entrepreneurship'

19th April 2017 8 AM

I had the privilege and good fortune of attending the Youth Conclave with Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji in Pune this morning.

Apart from being in the company of His Holiness Sri Sri, which was the major draw for most of the attendees, it was the impressive line-up of speakers that had brought more than 2500 youth this early to the Ganesh Kala Krida Mandal. About 25,000 people watched this event live via a webcast.
The theme of this Youth conclave was Innovation, Intuition, and Entrepreneurship.

The first speaker of the day was Mr. Anil Bokil, popularly known as the man behind the revolutionary demonetization move. Mr. Bokil came across a very simple, humble and intelligent human being who had the prosperity of his fellow countrymen behind all his strategies.

He started his address by talking about the technological wave that is encompassing us today and the immediate need to focus on the philosophical realm of life. Honestly, I was not impressed. I thought why is this man of scientific temperament and logic, talking of philosophy while addressing the youth of this country. However, the doubting mind quickly took a backseat when Mr. Bokul shared the philosophy behind the demonetization move.

He said money is a medium of exchange and not a commodity. He explained this concept beautifully by taking the example of a 500 rupee note in his pocket. He said as long as the note lies in his pocket, it is a commodity as no one can use it. It is Mr. Bokil's commodity. But as soon as this note moves into a bank, it becomes a medium. We all were using money or rather hoarding money as a commodity. When we put this money in a bank, it becomes a medium and can be used for funding, giving loans to the needy and generating more money for the economy. Money as a commodity widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Money as a medium helps to bridge this gap.

He also spoke about the footprint of each transaction, the moment it happens in the digital space. This helps in controlling the black money, the sale of drugs and many illegal activities.

He said that Technology brings Passion in life whereas Philosophy gives direction to life.

Indeed, an innovative move with a deep rooted philosophy was made possible using technology.

He stressed the fact that the technological revolution has reached its peak and the world now needs a Philosophical revolution for which India and our youth have to take the lead. Our strength lies in our strong family structure and our human values. Our domain expertise is Philosophy and it's time that we bank upon it.

Indeed an insightful perspective on technology!

The next speaker for the day was Major General Madhuri Kanitkar - The first Lady Dean of the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune

A multi-faceted woman - a soldier, doctor, and teacher, all rolled into one - she came to the dais amidst a thunderous applause. She was impeccably dressed in her Army uniform (what looked like a beautiful saree for a soldier)

She spoke on the topic of 'Dreams.' She started her talk by quoting none other than Mr. Abdul Kalam "You have to dream before your dreams can come true."

Major Kanitkar spoke about the importance of finding one's calling in life and directing all the energies towards it. She acknowledged that all of us, at different phases of our lives, are torn between personal aspirations, parental expectations, peer pressure, fear of failure and numerous distractions. She urged us to find our strengths, and use them to achieve our dreams while enjoying the journey. She also stressed the importance of all round development yet keeping our eyes fixated on our goals.

Time, Tongue and Trust are 3 major areas for team building. If you can manage your time well, know how to talk and trust others, you can build great teams. She rightly said that doctors need to have sugar on their tongue and ice on their heads. In fact, all of us need that for facing different situations in life.
She wrapped her session by stressing Confidence in your abilities as a key and this key can be gained by building competence in your chosen profession. She also suggested each one of us should read the book - Blink.

She was given a standing ovation for her achievements.

Next was a panel discussion with an eclectic mix of speakers:

Mr. HR Gaikwad, Chairman, and Managing Director, BVG India Ltd.
Mr. Aniruddha Deshpande, Managing Director, City Corporations Ltd.
Mr. Kapil Apshankar, Director and Chief Architect, DevOps Practice Leader, Cognizant and author of the best-seller - Done! The Art of Managing Priorities

Each one laid stress on innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship by taking a leaf out of their personal lives and sharing interesting anecdotes.

A common thread that unified their conversation was that you don't need to be an entrepreneur to practice it. Entrepreneurship is an attitude, it's about taking responsibility and ownership.

Next came the chief guest of the evening: The master himself.
Suddenly a well-seated audience of 2500+ started rushing towards the entrance. A human chain of volunteers was quickly formed to avoid chaos. What can volunteers do when an overwhelming feeling of love, gratitude and the desire for that one gaze from the master makes even the most intellectual people forget all the discipline and code of conduct.

Sri Sri breezed into the room, waved at us and signaled us to settle down.Without much ado, he said let's get to business. Intuition, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship being the theme, he came
straight to the point and shared an interesting anecdote. He said many years ago, at a course in the USA, he had challenged the gathering to innovate something. The instructions were to create something new. It could be something extremely mundane but it should have a fresh perspective to it. The entries were quite varied. From food items cooked with a twist to garments, everyone had pushed their limits to create and innovate something. But one entry that stayed with him all these years was that of a frail old lady's. She had created a handkerchief and claimed that it had 22 different things that made it the best handkerchief in the world. From the perfect hemming to the appropriate size, she had 22 unique reasons to boast of and proudly claim that her handkerchief was the best in the world. Through this lady's example, Guruji said Americans are best at Marketing and that's what we need to learn from them. Point well explained and grasped for life!

He spoke about learning precision from the Germans, Manners from Britan and Human values from India.

He also spoke about his recent article on NGT vs The World Cultural festival, that showcases how a government organization has done nothing except for maligning a law abiding organization. He simply walks the talk when he says that such obstacles in life give an opportunity to grow deeper in spirituality and finding creative solutions without keeping malice in the heart. Reminded me of Krishna's equanimity in the Mahabharata. By maintaining his poise and calm, and doing everything that should be done, he reminds me of the swan that remains calm and collected above the water and
continuously pedals underneath.

Many more questions were asked by the audience. Regular questions of the youth which guruji answered in his trademark style.

If you wish to go through all the questions, follow #YouthConclave on twitter. I am not noting them here as I found what I was looking for in that handkerchief lady example.

When you meet evolved souls, you do get all your answers. I could overhear others leaving the hall with a similar expression "I got what I came looking for!

The Youth Conclave on 'Innovation Intuition and Entrepreneurship' - was indeed an interesting Event!

Friday, 14 April 2017

F For Free Flowing Thoughts, My post for #ATOZChallenge

I brought my car to a screeching halt for the signal suddenly turned red. I was once again late for work. As I cursed my luck from my air-conditioned car, I happened to turn sideways and my gaze fell on a lady sitting on the footpath. Next to her, a shabbily dressed 3-year girl was sitting singing to herself. The lady didn’t look like a beggar. She was dressed alright. But the child certainly looked unkempt.

The lady looked like someone who was quite healthy and capable of working and taking good care of the child. She was looking somewhere far. Uninterested in the traffic, uninterested in what the child was doing. She saw the running nose of the child, pulled the child’s dirty frock and cleaned the nose with it. Something that could have easily sent the Dettol team to shame.

I replayed my morning scene in my head. I had amicably washed my 3-year-old, fed her, packed her tiffin, filled her water bottle, placed a change of clothes in her new Zara bag and dropped her to her day-care.

I noticed the stark differences in her and me cos she looked almost the same age as me.
The signal turned green and I was jolted out of my reverie by the blaring horns. The woman, of course, was too lost in her thoughts to notice anything around her.

I had a few takeaways from what I saw:

Value your Blessings: I am capable of earning and meeting my child's needs cos I was privileged to be born to parents who valued education and gave me that. I had done nothing to be born to such parents. I was simply blessed.

Mind: Your mind can take you places. The women looked healthy but indifferent towards everything. From surroundings to her child, she was simply unconcerned. We are all a burden on this earth. A body mass of 60, 70, 80 kilos. To justify this mass, we better use our mind to something meaningful. A mind that is in the present moment. A motivated mind.  A mind with healthy and positive thoughts. Ironically we spend more time fretting over the food we eat than the thoughts we think.

Next generation: This is something I would want every family to read. If you can’t afford to give a good life to a child, don’t bring them on this planet. Period.

Be overly analyzing and judgemental: I am sure my observation of the scenario would be far from the reality. Who knows what she was doing there and why she was there? But as human beings we are so fond of over-analyzing, judging and giving an unsolicited opinion based on our perceptions and past experiences that I ended up writing a whole post here. Cheers!

E for Experience at the Global Mentoring Walk Pune 2017, My post for #AToZChallenge

March 11, 2017, Saturday 7 am
“Amazing things happen when women come together.” 
I had the good fortune of experiencing the power of the quoted words when I joined the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk today at Joggers park, Kalyani Nagar.
My dear friend Sweta Mohapatra and her company ‘Diversity Vision’ had organized this Mentoring Walk. It’s a unique concept initiated by Vital Voices, where 15 experienced and successful senior corporate women act as a mentor for 15 aspiring and ambitious corporate women, who have relatively fewer years of experience. Each mentor is paired with a mentee and they walk together in the park for an hour. The mentee is free to discuss the challenges she may be facing at the professional/ personal front, seek guidance for career progression or learn about general work-life integration.
Vital Voices recognizes that while women need professional support and advancement, they also desire personal and emotional support from other women. Which is why they offer this platform to both mentor and mentee to forge new connections and networks and broaden their horizon for personal and professional achievements.
During the introductory session, each mentee spoke briefly about their backgrounds, challenges and what they looked forward to learning from the session. A few wanted to learn how to get more assertive at work and achieve work-life balance, others wanted to learn about political astuteness to maneuver through office politics. There were some who wanted to know how to deal with women bosses/colleagues, who were at times tougher than their male counterparts.
Someone also commented that she cannot imagine a group of 30 men discussing work-life balance. Why even in the 21st century, it falls in our kitty to find the elusive solution to this issue. A very valid point for all (read men) to reflect upon.
After the initial ice breaking round each mentee was assigned a mentor. Sweta had gone out of her way to find a renowned author Sujata Sabnis for me. I have been looking forward to publishing my graphic book for a while. So it was extremely kind of Sweta to find the perfect mentor match for me. Sujata is an experienced journalist with 3 books in her kitty. Her latest book ‘Songs of Stone’ has some incredibly good reviews. She discussed with me the creative writing process, how one must let the characters come alive in one’s head and gave suggestions for reading a few books to hone my craft. During the one hour time that we spent together, she acted as a friend, a guide, a philosopher, a teacher and a critic all rolled into one. She asked me to be resilient and have patience as my time shall come too. One of the best advice she gave me was to strengthen my creative writing process. I don’t think that I would have gotten the opportunity to spend time with a senior writer via any other platform. Thank you, Vital Voices, and my dear friend Sweta.
While Sujata and I were engrossed in our discussion, we also walked past the other 14 mentor-mentee pairs and could see how deeply involved each pair was in their discussion. The mentor more than willing to give and the mentee wanting to absorb as much as possible.
Post an enriching one hour walk, we all gathered for a group photo. It didn’t look like that this group of 30 women had just met an hour ago. Each mentee was busy chatting with other mentors to network and gain more.
By this time, tummies had started rumbling so Sweta took us to Café Columbia, a chic coffee shop just opposite the Joggers park. At the café, we had a power packed session with the corporate leader Madhavi Dhanukar, Sr. Vice President at EXL Service, who spoke passionately about the ‘Big Picture thinking.’
Madhavi had also brought in her 18-year-old daughter. Reason – She wanted her to learn from other women who have more experience than her. She said one should not reinvent the wheel and learn from others who have gone before us. Smart mommy.
Madhavi started her talk on the ‘Big Picture thinking’ with this quote -
One should not lose sight of the forest while focusing on the trees.’
She highlighted the importance of being assertive for women to get leadership roles. She gave us 5 very simple and practical areas, we should focus on for personal growth and other 5 to develop the leader in us.
5 areas for personal development:
1. Core competency: Whatever your area of expertise, become the best in it so that you are the go-to person in the organization for that need.
2. Communication skills: It’s important to develop communication skills so that you can market your talent and do it articulately.
3. Confidence: Women are extremely smart. They need to be a bit more confident in their own skin.
4. Gain Knowledge by investing time in yourself: As you climb the corporate ladder, it becomes important to keep learning and gaining knowledge. She suggested books like the ‘Blue Ocean strategy’ which each woman who aspires to be a leader should read.
5. Personal SWOT Analysis: (I liked this point the most). She said we should do a personal SWOT analysis - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat Analysis every year. You will not be able to implement the above 4 points if you do not do this. Because this is the real eye opener. Do it with brutal honesty and you will know the areas you need to focus on your growth.
5 areas to focus on developing the leader in us:
1. IQ - Intelligence Quotient
2. EQ – Emotional Quotient
We are aware of both these so she quickly moved on to the next three.
3. SQ- Social Quotient: To increase your Social Quotient, make connections outside your team, make a deliberate effort to have lunch with new faces, talk to people in the elevator and ensure that people not directly related to your work also know you.
4. OQ – Organizational Quotient: She stressed that informal hierarchy dominates in most organizations. Therefore, we need to be aware of our organizational hierarchy and know whether decisions are being taken in conference rooms or in smoke breaks and coffee sessions.
5. PQ – Personable Quotient: Personable Quotient defines how affable you are. I felt this to be my most important takeaway. This quotient shapes your personality, draws people towards you and gets you more opportunities vis a vis others.
What an excellent framework explained in such a simple and practical manner. We then had a Q & A round.
Toshiba Tiwari, a Corporate trainer, was also with the group to encourage the mentor-mentee relationship. For whatever little time, I met her, I could gauge that she is a wonderful champion for women leadership and empowerment. She spoke about how she is raising feminist sons in her house so that the next generation of women have it easy. She shared how the other day, her 17-year-old son made a breakfast when she had to leave for work a little early. She shared how she has such an open relationship with her sons that they discuss everything under the sun – from bodily changes to homosexuality. Got few lessons in parenting too!
Although it was already 11, but it seemed that none of us wanted to leave as it was such an enriching session with so much positivity. Sweta assured us that she would create a group on social media so that we can continue our conversations. Madhavi had underlined the importance of building an ecosystem where we can support each other. I could sense that ecosystem forming right there for each one of us.
Madhavi concluded it so beautifully that in each family, there is one rebellious generation that paves the way and makes things better for the next generation. She left us with this question –
Can we be the generation that changes things for the next generation of women?
Yes, we CAN and it’s time we should!
Special thanks to Sweta, Toshiba, Madhavi, each mentor and mentee for the positive vibe we all contributed and of course to Vital Voices for the brilliant vision of empowering women leaders.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Committed yet Carefree


As I dropped off my 5-year-old to school, I looked at her carefree gait with which she trotted to her class. She moved with such gay abandon that brought a smile to my face.

Then I wondered, why am I walking through life as if I am carrying a heavy burden on my head.

Can I not be committed to my goals yet have a carefree nature. (mind you not careless) 

When I am committed, I am generally too focused on the result.
Because I want to win and because I dont want to fail.

Why cant I function with my focus simply on the goal and not on the result?

Even if I fall, I too, just like my daughter, can brush off the dust and stand up again.

By taking out the fear of failure or the burden of achievement, I can live with a carefree spirit and a committed mind.

Arent kids simply wonderful! Even by observing them you learn so much!

Monday, 3 April 2017

BLAME GAME: Are you a Victim of it?

Image courtesy:

The other day, I was discussing my personality traits with a colleague. I shared a weakness and announced that my parents, while bringing me up, subconsciously reinforced one lesson a bit too much. So, this weakness is a byproduct of that lesson. To which, my colleague responded that after a certain age and of course after attaining a certain level of maturity, it is important that we take responsibility for who we are. We cant be the lengthened shadows of our parents all our lives.

Suddenly a eureka moment happened: I know I have a weakness. And I am not able to correct it. Not because it cant be corrected but because my mind has very conveniently put me in the blame game mode. The moment I take ownership for anything, I can correct it. But my mind was not letting me accept it as my responsibility. I pushed it on my parents. What a wonderful revelation! How, at times, we let our own mind act as a roadblock to our self-development. 

Are you subconsciously blaming others for bad habits, weaknesses, inhibitions? It’s about time you take ownership.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Aspirations of a parent for a child #AToZChallenge

The internet is full of parenting tips and  'must teach' lessons for your kids. As an informed parent, who doesn't want to miss out on any parental advice, I read all such articles with interest. The do's and don't's of raising a healthy, well balanced, intelligent child (Ahhh too much pressure)
So when I stumbled upon this beautiful lesson which is more important than all other lessons, I promised myself to follow it to the tee.

Teach this to your kids:
Image courtesy:

"You will never remember what you scored in your 7th standard physics exam. But you'll remember your memories. Go make amazing memories!"