About Prionka Ray

I am a 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.

Art Review: Yayoi Kunama


(This is a guest post by our teen reviewer, Anushka)

The National Gallery of Singapore’s new exhibit showcasing the many artworks of famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is yet another testament to the seven decades she has dedicated to them. Separated into four different galleries with its own separate identity, there are sculptures dated from 1972, standing still, next to a glorious explosion of spots. It was completed this year. I personally was more affected by the many boxes and rooms that greeted me with each step.

Gallery A’s display of the Infinity Nets series is not only a perspective into the artist’s eccentric mind, but also a glimpse into history, given that their first exhibition was in 1959. The paintings lack a structure, but rather all take up a canvas in a somewhat dizzying and hypnotic manner. Kusama’s past with hallucinations throughout her childhood is an inspiration for all her artwork, but Infinity Nets is a very clear product of it.

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Infinity Nets (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Gallery A also explores Kusama’s fascination with pumpkins, which personally, was my favourite theme. The vibrant, youthful colours conveyed a theme of innocence and radiance. Not only were there paintings across the walls, but also interactive installations, where a box is placed inside a room that seemed much like a bumblebee’s home. When I peered into the box, I was greeted with mirrors aligning the walls within, and the bulbous pumpkins aligning the floor.

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Bulbous pumpkin (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Gallery B is the home of the famous installation where many photos have been taken. Unsurprisingly, there is a line to enter this house of mirrors, where lights are hang from above crating a kaleidoscope of types. The lights shimmer and change much like Christmas lights, the darkness illuminated by what seem like tiny colourful stars. Gallery B also introduced two video installations, however, one being R18 prevented me from seeing it. The one further along shows that Kusama’s creativity was not only explored through paintings and fine art, but also through poetry and music, as a projector broadcasts her own song named the “Song of A Manhattan Suicide Addict”, where she uses her own experience dealing with depression to get across an eerie and uncomfortable song with the familiar pumpkins behind her, a strange contrast of the youthfulness before and this sudden talk of death.

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Life Is The Heart of A Rainbow (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

In Gallery C, we are met with hundreds of paintings adorning walls, some intricately drawn and others colourfully painted the deeper you go. Once again, another room installation meets you, this one transporting us to our childhood days where polka dot stickers are covering a white room, and two sculptures of tulips are placed inside. While yes pumpkins were youthful, this seemed more innocent, and it is a weird jump from restricted videos and images into the mind of a child once more.

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With My Love For All The Tulips, I Pray Forever (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Finally, Gallery H is a room full of stainless steel metal balls on the floor, and we are clearly instructed to not touch them, to not lie down with them, and to not interact with them in any other way aside from a glance down. The story behind this installation was one I was particularly interested in, and I later learnt that Kusama had acted as a street vendor with these balls all around her in the middle of a street, and tried to sell people passing by their “narcissism”, and it was only then when I realised these were reflective balls. It seemed a poignant way to end the exhibit; after searching through Yayoi Kusama’s mind, we ended up looking at ourselves.

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Steel balls (Source: Anushka)

 

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Getting Wed in Singapore


This write-up is about weddings and all those beautiful little things that come together when two people do. Behind each wedding, however, there are many people, hard at work, trying to make the event perfect for the love birds. I truly enjoyed writing this piece. It’s about dreams, magic, love and the creative elves behind the scenes. It all seems like a fairytale in the real world! presenting a little round-up of information about wedding planners, venues etc. for those who wish to tie the knot in Singapore.

Getting Wed Singaporean Style (Source: Sun Media)

In-Group Support Group for Youth


We have a group and we call it, In-Group.

What does In-Group actually mean?

In sociology and social psychology, an ingroup is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an outgroup is a social group with which an individual does not identify with.

The Famous Experiment by Jane Elliot

Iowa teacher, Jane Elliot conducted an experiment in 1968, (A Class Divided) that showed how easy it was to turn students as young as 7-year-old  into hate mongerers by targeted discrimination. Since the time of Elliot’s experiment, social psychologists have warned us of the causes, and consequences of ingroup-outgroup stereotyping. The experiment and the numerous studies after that showed us how easy it was to divide, to break bonds, to forms acrimonious groups that would stick to each other and against anyone they perceive as different.

 Philosophy behind In-Group Support Group for Youth

In-Group Support Group challenges the whole idea of discrimination based on perceived differences, and aims to unite teens and kids instead. It aims to build positive self-image and increased self-worth in kids and teens, and in turn ensure a future society that is more positive and inclusive.

Research shows that most teens and pre-teens go through issues like anxiety, bullying, stress, stereotyping, body imaging, depression etc. These arise from the very thought of being different. In fact, researcher, Yurgelun-Todd believes that a lot of teenage behavior is about avoiding the anxiety of feeling left out and not being a part of things. Though In-Group is targeted at teens and kids, it hopes to reach out to everyone in the community:  teens, kids, parents, educators, counsellors and policy makers, by raising awareness and by allowing a space to share stories, resources and solutions.

In-Group, Support Group (Kids/Teens)

In-Group is a non-profit initiative. It’s an advocacy, support group and a shared resource on stereotyping, bullying, peer pressure, anxiety and other issues faced by kids & teens. We believe shared stories not only increase awareness, but they also help build empathy in the community. The aim is to build a nurturing, supportive and inclusive society. If you would like to share your story (anonymously or otherwise), donate, collaborate or enquire about our workshops, or if you are an expert who could help us with building shared resources, do email us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com.

We are thankful to the following organisations for their support:
* The Bully-Free Committee, Singapore Children’s Society
* Tinkle Friend (www.tinklefriend.com)
* Coalition against Bullying for Children & Youth (Singapore)
* Association of Women for Action & Research, Singapore

Blog Contributors  & Writers Wanted!

We are blogging and are looking for opinions, articles, real stories, and resources (from kids, teens, parents, educators, counsellors, or anyone in the community at all)! We are looking for personal stories when things went wrong, for solutions that worked, and then those that didn’t. We are looking for some cool stuff too! Opinions, current events, music and feel-good articles (less than 300 words). If you would like to contribute, write to us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com or rayprionka@gmail.com. The articles and contributions can be anonymous if you so want, and if you don’t, then we are more than happy to publish your name.

Blog: https://ingroupsupportgroup.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InGroupSupportForYouth/

InGroup, Support Group For Kids/Teens

We founded In-Group, so that we could belong. Yes, all of us. Together.

Majulah Singapura! (My Singapore)


From the HDB art to the sophisticated art festivals, from the magnificent sky scrapers to the neighbourhood parks, from the humble food courts to the gourmet delights, and from fast city lanes to the kampong style living, presenting the place I call home. Happy 52nd Birthday Singapore!

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My Singapore! Sentosa cable cars (Image: Prionka Ray)

Gardens By The Bay

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Gardens By the Bay (Image: Prionka Ray)

Orchard Road

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Orchard Road (Image: Prionka Ray)

Din Tai Fung

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Din Tai Fung (Image: Prionka Ray)

HDB Art

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My Singapore! HDB Art (Image: Prionka Ray)

Old Supreme Court

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My Singapore! Parliament House (Image: Prionka Ray)

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My Singapore! Neighbourhood Parks (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Image: Prionka Ray)

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Singapore Colours! (Image: Prionka Ray)

Singapore River

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Singapore River, Clarke Quay (Image: Prionka Ray)

Arab street

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Street party @ Arab Street! (Image: Prionka Ray)

Marina Bay Sands

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Marina Bay Sands (Image: Prionka Ray)

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Near China Town (Image: Prionka Ray)

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My Singapore! Singapore Port (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore!(Image: Prionka Ray)

Clark Quay

Singapore River (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Images: Prionka Ray)

The Orchard Experience

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If I have known you long enough or even if, you and I are recent acquaintances, chances are that I have met you at Orchard road for a coffee or a meal at some point of time. I love Orchard and I can’t get enough of it. I love its vibe, its grace and its familiarity. My personal favourites there? I like Cedele at Wheelock, Wild Honey at Mandarin Gallery, and PS Cafe at Palais Renaissance for their feel-good food and ambience. I have also developed a new fondness for the Korean dessert, Bingsu at 313. If it’s shopping, then it is Paragon, Ion, Tangs, and 313. My daughter was born at Mt Elizabeth Hospital, so a special mention of the friendly Doctors and nurses there and finally, I really like the stretch near Zara and Wheelock. That’s the place where I love to sit and watch the world pass me by. Yes, I love Orchard, and if I get to write about it, I kinda love it even more.

(Read the original article here, page 5).   

The Orchard Experience (Source: IndoConnect)

The Orchard experience (Source: IndoConnect)

The Orchard Experience (Source: IndoConnect)

And if you flip over to page 17, you will find my interview with Prita Kemal Gani (Founder of LSPR). It was a beautiful afternoon at Mandarin Orchard where we chatted with Ibu Prita. Yet another memorable rendezvous at Orchard!

Interview with Prita Kemal Gani (Source: IndoConnect)

I Gathered What I Needed


From things, tangible and intangible, I gather what I need. And then I walk under the blue sky, lighter in steps, unhindered and free. I am done paying my dues, and I am done fighting the battles. But I am done now, and as I lay down my arms, my mask, and my armour, I let the runners pass me by. They run past with their shiny badges, picking up speed. But then their road is not mine to take. Their lofty promises are not mine to make. Their goals, they weigh me down. Their shiny baubles, they blind my eyes. So, I shy away. But a few noble ones extend their hands magnanimously. I feel awed by their presence. I am dwarfed by their stature. I am grateful of this gesture, I say.

But I am done treading paths not mine, so, thanks, but I will stay.  Then they promise me a land of treasure and I assure them that I have treasures of own. Yes, those (irrelevant) gratitude notes, the (invaluable) hand-written letters and the (little) acts of kindness. They are confused by now but I carry on. I tell them of my valuable memories, my hefty faith, and my dazzlingly impossible dreams. I have indeed gathered what I need. And now I walk barefoot on this dusty road, free to believe, free to be. This race is yours, not mine, I tell them. The battles are yours, not mine. And this pace is yours, not mine. I have slowed down, and happily so. Run past me my friends, I say. I will surely cheer you on. Do share with me your stories someday. Oh yes, I will still be awed, and I will still be pleased! But if you decide to walk with me, then I will share with you, my peace.

 

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 

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Aija Mayrock Interview by Prionka Ray

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.

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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).

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.

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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.

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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.