About Prionka Ray

I am a Singapore based writer, workshop-facilitator and a communication consultant. On good days, I am optimistic and on bad days, perfectly human! A listener by nature, learner by choice and an advocate for social cause, I believe collaborations are necessary for a better world. To contribute, communicate or to promote ideas/ events/ books/ cause, please connect at rayprionka@gmail.com.

Fearless


What is fearless (to you)?

When I asked this question to those around me, the answers differed.

“It is the ability to speak the truth without hesitation.”

“It is the belief that I stand with the truth.”

“It is the ability to share my emotional and vulnerable moments with those close to me.”

“It’s when you are not scared of anybody or anything, and even if you are, you don’t show it.”

“Freedom.”

“Fearless… is to be able to feel and act consciously from state of awareness and to own responsibility for everything that comes under it.”

What is fearless (to me)?

My favourite movie character is Mulan from Disney. The eponymous character brandishes her sword and saves her nation. In my eyes, she’s fearless, not just because she charges in to a battlefield, but also because she has the courage and the guts to break stereotypes and break norms of the society. She has the courage to stand by what she believes in. Fearlessness comes in many forms, and I have met great warriors of everyday life. They are resilient, sometimes quiet, and sometimes not, but they all have faced the battles of life, and won over demons, both outside and inside. That’s fearless to me.

Here I present to you my most recent definitions of fearless. These are two women I interacted with recently. One a mere teen, a young girl, who was bullied once but who, now has returned to fearlessly face her demons, and overcome them through her book and her performances, and the other, a 46-year-old international personality, TV host and speaker, who fearlessly tramples on every rule book, to say and do what she believes in.

Aija Mayrock: Author, Performer, Activist 

rent.com/aija-mayrock-interview-bullying/Aija was bullied as a child and as a teen. That kind of experiences affect most people negatively. However, Aija turned the same experience as a motivator to help others. I got to know Aija when I came across her very powerful anti-bullying performance. For someone to overcome the feeling of not being good enough, to overcome self doubts and hesitation that comes with being bullied, and still to be able to give such a power packed performance on her experience is fearlessness indeed! But she is not bitter. On the contrary, she was friendly, enthusiastic and prompt, when I approached her for an interview. Read the interview here

Anita Kapoor: TV Host, Media personality, Speaker.

image1

I met Anita at an event where she was the main speaker. She spoke on being fearless. According to her, the courage to be vulnerable, the courage to embrace whatever you feel, is what fearlessness is all about. On the surface, this seemed like a paradox. You could either be strong or be vulnerable. Right? But she proved it otherwise. And she proved it with a personal story, so poignant, that for the first time, I was blinking back tears in a live talk, and in a hall full of powerful, and successful women. Anita eloquently spoke of her bereavement, her fresh loss, and her journey of grief. However, she did it fearlessly. Anita is not new to such fearless show of vulnerabilities. Her documentary on living with the elderly touches on the same personality trait of hers. It’s raw, it’s sincere, and its powerful.

The above are just two definitions of fearlessness. They are not the only ones. As I meet new people, both men and women, my definition keeps expanding, keeps growing.

And then of course, Taylor Swift sings…

Source: Imgrum

So, maybe being fearless is also about being able to take a leap of faith. My definition continues to expand…

(This post is dedicated to the fearless. Thanks to The Asian Parents Magazine for endorsing the interview, and thanks to Primetime Business and Professional Women’s Association for the beautiful evening with Anita).

Advertisements

Why I wrote “Sia”?


Why I wrote, Sia? (A Writer’s Perspective)

sia-prionka-ray-leadstart-publishing-buy-onlineI began writing Sia in 2009 and there were two reasons for it. One, I had a story to tell, a story that though imagined, was inspired by real people, real places and real emotions. Two, because my dad belonged to Benaras and I thought he might like a story based on the place. No one knew that I was writing this story. It was my little secret. I wrote a bit every day, whenever I would get time after work and whenever I was done with the other responsibilities.

Incidentally, Sia’s story began a bit differently to what is in the book now. The current version came about when somewhere along the way, the characters of the story took over, and I ended up, swayed and influenced by them. I laughed and cried while writing. It was almost as if those characters showed me a glimpse of their lives, and I remained a mere observer. I enjoyed their story.

As a creator though, I was aware that I was not just a narrator of this fiction, but that I had in my capacity, a chance to observe the bigger picture, one, that could reflect the social norms, the fair, the unfair, the patriarchy and the lethargy to change. As my story progressed, I was also aware that the narrative and the social commentary would inevitably cross path. I was glad of it.

Unfortunately, when I was almost at the end of this story, my father died. It took me two full years to come back to the story and finish it. Eventually, when it got published, I dedicated it to him. I was sure he would be happy to know that I had written him a story… wherever he might be.

What are the readers saying? (Readers’ Perspective)

“This book deserves to be made into a movie.” (Goodreads)

“I didn’t know a book like this will affect me so much” (Goodreads)

“There was a good mention about the current problems faced by the 20s and 30s generation with a hint of raunchy humour.” (Reviewer, Between the Lines)

“My only question to the author remains that why is it that the doctor is always a ‘he’ in a fiction book? If Mrs Ray’s next book has a ‘her’ as the primary doctor I would consider it to be a revolutionary change.” (Amazon)

“The book is very detail oriented, beautifully describing each place and the setting of characters throughout the book.”

“Debutant author, Prionka talks about many issues plaguing the society – generation gap, infidelity in marriage, not having a son in the family, etc.” (Reviewer)

“I love the feel good factor it leaves you with.”

“There’s a Munni in all our lives. I could relate to her.”

Sia, New Edition

Thanks to all you readers, my book, Sia, is in its second edition now. I remain grateful and humbled. And as far as the story is concerned, it’s still for you, dad!

(Sia is available on AmazonKindleKoboNook etc.)

Stories are Meant to be Shared


Hello! Hello! I have been missing, and that’s because April and May turned out to b
e real busy. They were full of happenings, events and collaborations. And so I had an enriching time meeting people, being inspired and then gushing about it all on social media. Amidst all these ‘gushing about’, I was faced with a dilemma: to share or not to share. But before I go to to that juncture of my narrative, let me step back and talk about the events that led me to it.

18076618_10154273825746784_7818769642625216796_o
It all began with a diplomatic event that I co-organised for my clients. And in the process, I had the privilege of meeting many strong, powerful and superbly talented women. These were diplomats, heads of organisations, Doctors, artists and professionals, who were not just talented, and confident, but were also women who believed in the power of their stories. Whenever people with passion and purpose articulate, there’s always much to learn from each view-point. I was not just inspired, but also heartened to see how stories had the capacity to reach out to people who would have never assumed what you have gone through and wouldn’t know otherwise, what your ideas are. These stories may have originated from a personal space perhaps, however, as soon as they were shared, they became a place of resource, a place to test ideas, to validate experiences and to learn. Learn, I surely did.

And on a morning, overcast with clouds, the guests arrived at the embassy, and  we celebrated 50 years of bilateral ties between Indonesia and Singapore. Along with that, we celebrated the inspiration behind Ibu Kartini of Indonesia. It reiterated the fact, that years after we are gone, our stories, our ideas and thoughts will be passed down. My sincere thanks to Indoconnect & the Indonesian Embassy for trusting me with such a beautiful and meaningful occasion.

For the second event, I had the opportunity to share my own story. This time, I was asked to share my ‘Empathy Journey’ as a mentor to teens-at-risk. This is a topic close to my heart. Nevertheless, it’s only when I began gathering my thoughts before the event, that I realised that even my own story needs introspection. I realised that empathy is not a tap to be switched on when I am mentoring or when I am volunteering, it’s a way of life  that should be a part of everything I do. I shared my epiphany, my leanings from the many inspiring people that I have met, and my learning from the many failures and successes that I have seen.

18447642_10210441601250967_1930325264228143488_n

Ted Ed @ NYGH 2017

As I shared my story, I felt grateful to have been given this opportunity to address a crowd of young impressionable students. I hoped that I left some bits of my stories behind in that glittering hall, stories that could be used as a resource, as a validation and, as a positive learning.

Eventually, I was asked: should stories be shared? I thought back to the many who would say no. And then I thought of the few powerful and inspirational ones who would say, yes. I paused and took a stand: Positive stories and positive emotions are meant to be shared. The more they are shared, the more they reach people and touch them, engulfing them in a mist of positivity. They validate a positive intention and allow a feeling of wellbeing. Asian culture frowns upon boasting. However, I have seen the stories inspire many towards positive thoughts and positive actions. Ok, so what about negative stories? That would be an interesting debate, and we shall keep it for another day. But I can safely say that some people have a knack of turning even the negative stories to a positive one. One such young lady is Aija Mayrock. The spunky author, performer and activist turned her bullying experiences towards a positive road to success. I greatly enjoyed interacting with her. Look out for her interview in my next post.

For now, keep sharing!

My Blank Bit of Blue


There is a blue felt board just about my work-station. It is the space that I look at the most, so it houses moments important to me. There are photos of  family, friends and there are inspirational quotes and, loads of thoughts, scribbled and typed. It’s a collage of things/ people that make me happy and thoughts that I have accumulated.

But today that board is empty. The blue is stark and it is devoid of thoughts and memories. That should make me anxious, sad or nostalgic or perhaps even empty, but strangely, it doesn’t. I feel cleansed, my mind uncluttered and free. Free to think all over again…

How often do we do this? Clear our space and mind of things, thoughts and beliefs? And how often do we re-validate, re-evaluate and redesign? Not too often, I am afraid. I am also aware that some people, perhaps never go through the process. What a pity! For me though, it was time. In spite of this realisation, this blank board is not deliberate. It just happened, and is a side effect of a planned relocation of space. This move of physical space prompted me to take my stuff down. But, now that I have emptied the board, it all seems very symbolic and profound. It’s like I will emerge again… evolved.

Over the years, I had noticed some of my ideas changing, my belief system realigning and many bias, disappearing. Many a times, I have been proved wrong about people, ideas and situations. So then, I think it is apt that I acknowledge it. It heralds a change and I am glad of a bit of blank. It’s now that I shall choose again. I shall choose, what matters, what is important and what needs to change. It’s not as much about who/ what remains on my board, but it is more about what I think, what I hold important and, who I have eventually become. It is about pausing to know me.

The blank space would be filled up soon, but not yet. I am still introspecting. And it’s a powerful and inspiring message that this blue felt gives me. It says, blank is not scary, it doesn’t mean void. It simply means, one is not afraid to change and one is not afraid to grow.

Colour me Slow


This mind, this fickle mind, it is dependent on these tiny changes around it. And yet it knows it not. It swirls with the events, happenings, and the teeny-weeny shifts. But it seldom registers and often forgets. Like it rode on the golden rays that burst from the window in the morning. It noticed the tiny drop of tea that trickled along the rounded cup. It smelled the waft of breakfast in the neighbour’s house, and it sighed happily when the dog settled at the feet rustling that page of newspaper that floated on its way to the floor. And yet it remembered nothing overtly. It just vaguely felt a happy feeling somewhere, completely intangible and, somewhat transient.

It stayed alert in that yoga session, it stayed silent through that repetitive song from the childhood and, it was filled with melancholy at the thought of a loved one lost. It went off course on a travel plan gone awry, and was agitated and full of angst when the normal and sedate routine was disrupted. It even feigned anger when confronted. And yet, it remembered nothing overtly. It just vaguely registered the anxiety in the periphery of its being.

However, when the day had run its course, it settled in to a sluggish state of slumber. It’s only then, with the wisdom of the one that has slowed down deliberately, it paused at each event and wondered why one is not mindful of these deceptively tiny changes that in reality, have the astounding power to change the energy of the universe. What’s the hurry to move on, it asked. Why is it that these seismic shifts and happenings go unnoticed? Is this why the wise preached mindfulness? Is this what I am missing? The knee-jerk reaction was to pause each event, and to analyse each emotion. It seemed painfully contrived. But, the restlessness had been initiated, and action was inevitable. That’s when ‘it’ and ‘I’ merged. Experience, I knew, was mandatory. Action, I knew, was necessary. However, reaction, I realised, was optional. It was voluntary. So, yes, I paused.

I pause now to notice the stars that blink and yet it doesn’t. I look within, and somehow, the events stop rushing. They do not drown me. Instead, they just melt and mix, they float and flow. They become a slow dance of energy, filling the spaces vacant, reacting to emotions and thoughts and, eventually they change me a bit constantly with the newness of the experiences. I find it profound. I find it overwhelming. I just find it. I find me. I pause to notice the way I react. I pre-empt and I am prepared.

This mind, this fickle mind, has been splattered with the colours, these colours, made of experiences. All I had to do was slow down, notice, feel and acknowledge. So, here I slow me down, and feel the swirling colours as the shades splatter my soul, I revel. I see the missed moments in my mind: the bird, mid-flight, the leaf, overturned, the child, pouting, the mother, indulgent, the egos at play, the love at display, and the pulsating life that links it all.

See now, I am covered in colours so brilliant! It’s the exuberance of these slowed down experiences, and see, I am alive!

The Quieter Ones


Image Source: Wikihow

I was never assertive as a child, and even as a teenager, I chose to follow the road of least resistance. I thought confirming was easier than being a renegade, because for me, it was always about the people. So, I followed the majority, I followed the society. I was sure, that the loud and the insistent knew the wrong from the right. I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.

Soon, I realised that it was difficult to do justice to any work or pursuit, when you lacked the interest or the passion, but elders said, perseverance was a virtue so I persevered on goals decided by others. However, that kept me average, bored and it made me a follower of whoever was loud and insistent. After all, it was always about the people and I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.

By the time, I embarked on an independent adult life, and took new responsibilities and roles, my learning, my motivation and my reasons had changed. I had spent so long, being quiet and observant, that I had begun to understand people more and more. I began to read between the lines, notice the gestures, understand the pause, and hear the words that were left unsaid: theirs, and even mine. It was then that it dawned on me, that perhaps the quieter ones knew a lot too, but it’s just that the louder ones were heard more. I decided to listen to the quieter ones. Not that they were always right, but I gathered that they had so much to share, and not enough people to hear them out. I moved away from the conforming tendencies, and consciously went about listening to the thoughts of those who were shy, quiet, or had no faith in their own voices.

So, here I am, a writer, a media representative and a trainer by profession, and it is my job to use my words, to speak my mind, whether in print or in spoken form, but in spite of it all, I am a listener at heart. But, this time I am not confirming. This time instead of listening to those who are insistent and loud, I am more inclined to listen to those who are quiet and subdued, and to listen to those who are wary and weary, but wise in their own ways. I am also listening to those, who have unpalatable stories to tell, and perhaps, no one to hear them out. All I can tell is that I am enriched and humbled because of these stories and because of these soft voices.

Mr Tan Chun-Jin, Minister of Social & Family Development

5 years as a volunteer-mentor to teens-at-risk with MSF. Here with Minister of Social & Family Development, Mr Tan Chun-Jin

It is my privilege to have completed 5 years of listening to the voices of the silent ones. I am immensely grateful to the Ministry of Family & Social Development, Singapore, for allowing me in their inner sanctum as a volunteer-mentor to teens-at-risk.

With Students (Singapore). Event: BTC 2017. Courtesy, SoCh

With Students (Singapore). Event: BTC 2017. Courtesy, SoCh

I am also thankful to Social Change in Action, for giving me access to the issues of the young through their DFC Programme and Be the Change Events.

With students (India), after a talk on self image, success and issues faced by the youth

With students (India), after a talk on self image, success and issues faced by the youth

This year, I went back to the schools in my hometown too. This is the city, where I studied till I moved away for my higher education. My love of people was nurtured here. I am grateful to the Principal of my alma mater, DPS, for allowing me to speak to the senior students of the school. I am thankful that they heard me patiently and gave me an insight to their thoughts. I am also thankful to my ex-teacher, Mr Sharma, who heads another school now, but remains open to discussing various issues faced by the teens in his school. I spoke to the students there too. In my sessions with the students, I talk about the things I have learnt through the years. I tell them, what I know. And I tell them that it’s not always the loud and the insistent ones, who decide the rules. I tell them that it’s not always the eldest who knows the wrong and the right and, I tell them that it’s not always judicious to keep quiet if you believe in what you have to say. I tell them to have a voice, loud or quiet, because each voice has value and each voice knows.

If there is anything that I have learnt, it is to do whatever one has to do to go ahead, but to still remember to reach out, to listen and to empathise. Because however, much the world progresses, and the technology takes over, however hard the keepers of the society insist on success, power and material possession, our very existence and our purpose will still be decided by our precious resource, the people. It will be always be about the people and their voices.

I am collecting quieter voices here, so if you are a teen, a teacher, or a parent, then contact us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com. For any other matter, contact rayprionka@gmail.com.

This is my 100th post. So, my final thank you is to all of you who read my posts. The listener speaks here.

 

Love


Love. It sure gets me verbose, taciturn, introspective, meditative, skeptical and mushy, all at the same time. The definition of love has actually changed with my age and my understanding of the world, or perhaps the understanding of myself.

When I was younger, a mere child, I lived surrounded by love, protected and nestled and cocooned by it. And that is my first memory of love without even knowing it was love. By high school, ‘love’ was ubiquitous, one couldn’t ignore it anymore or feign ignorance. Valentine’s Day was a word unknown to us still, but we loved and were loved. And that ‘love’ was defined by the movies, by the songs and in rare cases, by few books. MPK and QSQT became the parametres of love and those who don’t know what these acronyms mean are clearly not from my generation. But I am willing to help, so here goes… they stand for Meine Pyaar Kiya and Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, the teenaged, mushy block busters of our times. We watched those movies as many times as we could so that we could be completely sure what love meant. We were sure by the 12th viewing.

When I reached the late teens, Kevin Costner singing, “Everything I do, I do it for you” was the penultimate idea of love. It was the love anthem and I remember standing up in solidarity and in respect in the movie hall when the song played.

Being a little shy, I also had a quieter idea of love, one that was captured in the song, “More Than Words” or perhaps, “Aate Jaatey” (from MPK). Nevertheless, love was still decided by the media, still defined by the popular versions and still conveyed by the prescribed view of it. Even when I encountered the actual roses and the valentine-day cards, my definitions remained temporary and capricious, my understanding, swayed by what was expected.

As I grew older, love meant having a life-partner and then it morphed gently to include motherhood. I think motherhood still remains the most instinctive and beautiful love of all. But even that had a prescribed version of it. Prescribed or not, that love had the maximum changing power in it. It weakened the boundaries of love and seeped out of the prescribed lines. And then with experiences and age, the understanding of my ‘love’ grew.

Love was not about the movies, the songs or the people anymore. It became subtler. It was about the meaning of things and the depth of intentions rather than the visibility of the actions. It was about emotions, emotions that couldn’t be contained, that couldn’t be prescribed and that couldn’t be defined. It was all about colouring outside the lines, and overflowing the glass. It was about reaching out to the harshest of the people and feeling the beauty of all that was around me. The more my love expanded in meaning, the more I loved, and I loved grandly and lavishly, and I loved beyond the candle lights, and beyond the gifts, beyond the Valentine’s Days.

Today, love is gratitude, loyalty and unconditional support. Love is a promise that I make to those I call friends and family, a promise that I will stand by you, no matter what. It’s also a promise to those beyond my immediate circle, and to those I don’t know yet, that I will offer you a form of benevolent love that runs out of the prescribed lines. I offer you a non-judgmental and perennial hand of friendship.

Because, love, it can never be contained. So, I let it flow and I included it in everything I do.

Social Commentary through Films: Interview with Regional Filmmakers


Every region has its own narrative, one that offers a glimpse of its pulse. Dipping in to each narrative, I have felt involved and yet distant at the same time. As if, I am submerged in to a deep body of water, but unable to fathom its depth. However, the more dips I take, the more my view clears. The more I linger, the more I view. My introduction to films of the region was initiated this way and very soon, I concluded that despite the uniqueness of each culture, the shared story of humanity remains the same.

Presenting my interviews with two acclaimed film makers from Indonesia, Nia Dinata and Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo. On the surface, they both are different, but both their film-making styles involve the same need to weave in stories from the society we live in. Both are experts in making their audiences think, feel and ponder at the rules the society makes, the rush for power that divides us as people and the values that make us who we are. The original magazine link is available here

# Interview 1

Nia Dinata 9Source: IndoConnect)

Nia Dinata (Source: IndoConnect)

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-10-00-09-am

#Interview 2

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: Indoconnect)

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: IndoConnect)

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-9-59-04-am

These are exciting times of collaborations and shared narratives. I am greedy for more and looking forward to exploring more and more of these regional treasures!

 

My Reading List: 2016


Writers, artists, playwrights, film makers and all the others, who take on the responsibility of observing, commenting and understanding the society in which we live in are doing us all a great favour. They look at patterns in life, in society and in behaviour, and then they analyse it all to give us a summary, coloured by their own bias of course, but a summary, nevertheless. It makes our lives easier. It saves us from having to dwell deep in to the chaotic depths of our own personalities, the complicated mishmash of our own relationships and the unexplained mysteries of many combined lives. In short, they do our introspection for us.

My homage is to the authors today, especially the authors of fiction or perhaps, fact that is garbed as fiction. These authors offer us a glimpse of a collective struggle, they offer us explanation of why something is the way it is and sometimes they influence us to question everything that we know. My reading list of 2016 seems to have shown a pattern, quite involuntarily. Most of the books that I have read have questioned the society’s ways of doing things. They have questioned what is wrong and what is right and they have forced me, the reader to question the notion of truth. Many of these are asian writers but that, I feel has not made a difference to my experience as a reader. What has been consistent, is that I have been forced to think and rethink what I know and what I have believed in earlier. To be honest, I have enjoyed the process immensely! So, here is my reading list of 2016. These books reflect the society in different times and in spite of that, in each era, they have questioned why society’s rules are decided by a handful of powerful people or they have forced me to look at alternate realities and alternatives.

the-god-of-small-things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

bookcover_a_passage_to_india

A Passage to India by E M Forster

615lbsfxugl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

morgan_winterson_oranges

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

51ybe4jutdl

Dubliners by James Joyce

6149

Beloved by Toni Morrison

woman-warrior_1

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

51lmtfdl9fl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

9780241978924

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

512dali0ocl-_sx323_bo1204203200_

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

ghosh_amitav_sea_of_poppies

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

the-bloody-chamber-and-other-stories-by-angela-carter

The Bloody Chamber and other Stories by Angela Carter

1984orwell

1984 by George Orwell

41vhdfdccul-_sx321_bo1204203200_

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

 

5315366

Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates

 

Happy reading! May we always question. May we always want to know.

 

Singapore International Film Festival: Fantasy & Female Empowerment


The longest running international festival in the region, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back in its the 27thedition to offer a ‘feast for the senses,’ with films that narrate unique stories from the region. This was announced by the Festival at a media conference held at the National Museum of Singapore on 27th October, 2016. This year, SGIFF will screen 161 feature and short films from 52 countries, with 16 world premieres, 9 international premieres and 18 Asian premieres.

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Ms Yuni Hadi said that the SGIFF continues to be a discovery ground and platform to connect independent films in Asia and beyond. As the leading international film platform in Southeast Asia, the festival strives to foster the understanding of regional cinema by giving a voice to individuals through stories and dialogue. SGIFF is part of the annual Singapore Media Festival (SMF) that brings together a rich mix of independent filmmaking talent to showcase the region’s stories through film, throughout Asia and beyond. SGIFF also allows established and emerging filmmakers and industry players to interact and exchange ideas, in order to contribute to the growth of cinema in the region.

(More on my write up on SGIFF. This article was first published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

blog-indoconnect1