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)

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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 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).

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)

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#Interview 2

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: Indoconnect)

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: IndoConnect)

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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!

 

It’s March!


Ola!

March is always an exciting month and it is usually at this time of the year that the ideas and plans from the previous year germinate and begin to grow shoot.  So, it’s the perfect time for me to emerge from my blog hibernation and say howdy!

Firstly, a bit of news from the SG50 post event! It was a lovely evening at the dome (Gardens by the Bay) on the 18th of March as I joined the SG50 celebratory dinner. The Sakura was in full bloom ouside the glass doors while the ceiling of the hall was lit up by the most astounding colourful lights that I had ever seen. It was enchanting! And in such a beautiful setting, we bid farewell to SG 50 and set our sight on the next 50 years instead. Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong officiated the ceremony for a time capsule containing items like identity cards and school uniforms and this capsule will be opened for centennial celebrations in 2065. I would love to be part of it again… if I am still alive!

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner. (Source: Prionka Ray)

Yours truly with Finance Minister Heng. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

Yours truly with Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

 

Next, I have a book list update. Actually, I got a bit overwhelmed by the adult fiction and took a tiny detour to the kids’ section instead. And, if at all you think children’s books are kids’ play. Well, think again! When books in their deceptively simple style tackle issues like gender bias, racial discrimination and topics usually considered socially difficult, then it’s surely time to pay homage to the great authors and illustrators who create these books. My list here includes books that might be of interest to kids and early teens though some are evergreen books, to be enjoyed by all.

For the tiny tots, I recommend, The Paper Bag Princess. The story goes against the usual fairy tale tradition of portraying female characters as a damsel in distress. Instead, the female lead turns in to a witty and sassy role model who takes charge of her life. So, this book is for all the little girls and the little boys because they all should know that gender bias is not cool. Not at all!

 

imagesVoices in the Park by Anthony Browne: This book is recommended for primary school kids. Yes, it’s a picture book but don’t be fooled by that. It packs a serious punch as it narrates the story using different perspectives. It talks of racial and social disparity and its illustrations are so clever that you better spend some time locating the hidden images in there. (Hint:I am talking about images such as Monalisa and King Kong).

 

Bird by Zetta Elliott: This is a sensitive and beautiful picture book for readers aged, 5-13 (or even above). It talks about loss, addiction and acceptance through words that are subtle and illustrations that are gentle. I am a fan.

 

 

 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Of course, this classic needs no introduction! It’s a book of friendship for both kids and adults alike.

 

 

 

little pioneersLittle Pioneers by Bessie Chua: This book is recommended for all the young readers of Singapore, aged 8 and above. The book talks about a beautiful relationship between Chun and her grandmother and paints a vivid picture of the streets of Chinatown, Singapore in 1897.

 

 

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine is a book recommended for adults, kids and teens alike. The story is based on real life events in the concentration camp. The narration however begins in the year 2000, when a suitcase arrives at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan, marked “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931.” The center’s curator searches for clues to young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis. It is difficult to read this book and not be moved!

 

 

But moving is mandatory and so I shall move out of the lit zone to an inspirational quote by Peter Drucker that says that “You can either take action, or you can hang back and hope for a miracle. Miracles are great, but they are so unpredictable.”

So, here’s the action that I have taken after a decade of seeing the ravages of depression, bullying and labelling in kids and teens, alike. It gives me great pleasure to announce an initiative against stereotyping, peer pressure, bullying and negativity through an online initiative, In-Group. Agreed, these are  mere baby steps, but I am hoping that it will begin a journey that will be worthwhile in the long run and reach out to those in need. The initiative is currently on Facebook and aspires to be a resource for ideas, solutions and stories that raise awareness and eventually provide support to those who need help. In-Group is also proud to be collaborating with CABCY-Singapore and it joins CABCY’s effort to raise money for an Intervention Centre for School Bullying.

Lastly, ending my post with information on a bright and fun-filled Easter event organised by The Party Elves.  886075_968712196553321_4538804887317665666_oYou can book your tickets here 

 

 

 

 

This month, we are focusing on an organisation that uplifts the needy by providing jobs, Upaya.

Upaya’s mission is to create dignified jobs for the ultra poor by investing in small businesses in India’s poorest communities. Check about their projects here

That’s all for now! Keep connecting, keep believing in miracles and keep taking actions!

 

 

 

 

 

The LKY Musical: Q & A with author, Meira Chand


Meira Chand

Meira Chand

The LKY Musical is based on Singaporean author, Meira Chand’s story. The author of books such as A Far Horizon, House of the Sun and The Painted Cage, Meira is an established name in Singapore and an associate member of the Centre for the Arts at National University of Singapore. She has also been the Chairperson for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for South East Asia and South Pacific.

Of Indian- Swiss heritage, Meira was born and educated in London and lived many years in India and Japan before settling down in Singapore. It is not surprising therefore, that she brings with her a multicultural perspective, that gets reflected in her novels through themes such as identity and belonging. Her latest offering, A Different Sky, was on Oprah’s recommended list for November 2011 and the book is set against the backdrop of colonial pre-Independence Singapore, very much like the backdrop of The LKY Musical.

As we await the world premiere of the very first musical tribute to the late founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, here’s my Q & A with author Meira Chand, where she talks about the writing process behind The LKY Musical.

PR:  How easy or difficult is it to write about a man whose life is this widely known?

MC: There was definitely a difficulty in that, not only are the details of Mr Lee’s life widely known, but when this project began he himself was still alive and the sensitivities of the family, plus the deep political sensitivities surrounding anything to do with Mr Lee and his life, had absolutely to be considered.  I felt the only way to deal with this was to use material that was already in the public domain, i.e. Mr Lee’s speeches, newspaper reports, Mr Lee’s own memoirs, or the memoirs of others who knew him well etc.

PR: Which aspect/s of Mr Lee’s life is focused on in the musical?

MC: I chose to focus on Mr Lee’s early life, before independence.  I felt this area of his life was less familiar to the present generation of younger Singaporeans.  At this time, his persona, beliefs and political skills were also still in the process of evolving through the experiences he was facing.  His persona had not yet completely crystallised into the man he later became.  He was surrounded by struggle and beset with doubt.

PR: Each Singaporean is bound to have his or her own image of LKY. Did you have an image too and if so, in writing the story, did you feel compelled to move away from your previously held image or did you build on it?

MC: Previous research for A Different Sky had brought me into contact with Mr Lee’s story, but not in a really focused way.  Further research for LKY The Musical not only built on, but greatly deepened in a sympathetic way the image I already had of him.  I came to know the early man, his bravery and fears and his entrepreneurship through the war years, the misery of life in England and his determination to academically excel, plus the later struggles for independence against a colonial regime and then the communists.  Today is it easy to forget that then, the way ahead was not clear to Mr Lee or anyone else, and the courage and single-mindedness it took to be true to his vision was exceptional.  The violence and drama of the era have also been almost entirely forgotten; strikes and bloody riots that included students and school-children, and daylight assassinations by the communists were the stuff of everyday life.  We also forget how young Mr Lee was, only 36 when he first became Prime Minister.

PR: You had once said, “through the novel, A Different Sky, I have followed the birthing of Singapore dream.” As  Mr Lee’s life is very much integral to the ‘Singapore dream,’ are there parallels in The LKY Musical and A Different Sky?

A Different Sky by Meira Chand

A Different Sky by Meira Chand

MC: There is certainly some overlap between A Different Sky and the story I wrote that became LKY The Musical in that both are set in the era of pre-independence Singapore.  Although Mr Lee’s story is integral to the ‘Singapore dream,’ in A Different Sky that story and the events Mr Lee also lived through and that helped to form him, are lived and experienced by many different characters, each in their own way.  Mr Lee is mentioned only towards the end of A Different Sky when he is elected along with fellow PAP candidate, Lim Chin Siong, to the General Assembly, changing the course of politics and Singapore forever.  He is present again to indicate the shape of the future, in the last chapter of the book.

PR: I thoroughly enjoyed your book, A Different Sky and especially enjoyed the fact that the story was presented through multiple points of view. Will we see multiple points of view in this story as well? Which other characters influence the narrative in The LKY Musical?

MC: LKY the Musical does not really embrace multiple viewpoints.  It focuses much more narrowly upon Mr Lee and his story and struggles.

PR: Most characters in this musical are males. To what extent is the female perspective presented?

MC: This point was much discussed by the creative and production teams and we could find no way around the fact that Mr Lee’s life and also the era he lived in had little room for female perspectives.  That said, Mrs Lee, Kwa Geok Choo, was from Mr Lee’s earliest days an overwhelming force of strength and influence in his life.  In the musical she is the only female character, and I hope her indispensable presence in Mr Lee’s life will be clear to all, perhaps because she is the only women in the cast.

PR: Lastly, has the experience of writing this story been any different to the other stories that you have written? If yes, how?

MC: Yes, this story has been a very different experience.  The whole writing construction was different.  It was written more as a visual treatment of something that would finally go on stage, and with this in mind it meant a much a more linear viewpoint and way of writing.  Around it what I have enjoyed most is the sense of collaboration.  A novelist’s work is solitary work, and working on LKY The Musical, has been one of creative sharing and building in a most exciting way.

 

Presented by OUE, The LKY Musical will be staged at the MasterCard® Theatres, Marina Bay sands from 24 July 2015 and is expected to continue through the Jubilee celebrations over the National Day weekend. (Tickets on sale at all SISTIC outlets)

The LKY Musical: Q & A with Dick Lee

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The LKY Musical_MAIN VISUAL(1)

The best tribute is in the remembrance. As Singapore prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence, the nation remembers its founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew through a musical based on the trials and the tribulations of his life. Three years in the making, The LKY Musical follows the life of the iconic leader’s early days at Raffles College to the founding of independent Singapore. According to Tan Choon Hiong, Director of Metropolitan Productions, “Our deep admiration for the man and our love for the arts is the driving force behind the attempt to produce a world class musical.”

And a world class musical it is expected to be! With a stellar cast of Adrian Pang, Sharon Au and Sebastian Tan in place and an internationally acclaimed creative team of Dick Lee, Meira Chand, Steven Dexter, Stephen Clark and Tony Petito steering its creative flow, the stage is set for a patriotic spectacle.

Dick Lee, the man responsible for the music is a multi-talented Singaporean icon. Recognised as a spokesperson for the new Asian generation and credited with championing the inclusion of Asian elements in pop music, he has written and staged many acclaimed musicals since 1971. The current projects for this Associate Artistic Director of Singapore Repertory Theatre include directing the National Day Parade 2015 and an upcoming movie.

Personally, I have always enjoyed his hummable songs and admired his sense of style. However, what impresses me most is his versatility. Answering my question on which of his artistic abilities influence him the most, Mr Versatile admits to his love for storytelling through music.

Dick Lee (Photo credit: Oliver Henry, Milk Photographie)

 

My Q & A with Dick Lee:

PR:  You have always added something ‘uniquely Singaporean’ to your music. Will we see that again in The LKY Musical?

DL: This time round I’ve written a melodic score with darker melodies to reflect the turmoil & uncertainty of the era & what LKY faced.

PR: I have enjoyed many of your songs and my 3 favourites are, ‘Home,’ ‘Fried Rice Paradise’ and ‘Treasure Every Moment.’ However, all these songs have different feel to it: where ‘Home’ has a sense of nostalgia, ‘Fried Rice Paradise’ is upbeat and ‘Treasure Every moment’ is heart-warming. What ‘feel’ can we expect in The LKY Musical?

DL: I hope to convey a sense of drama and emotion to support the story.

PR: You are a singer, songwriter, visual artist, designer, creative director and filmmaker. Of all your multiple artistic abilities, which ones have influenced the treatment of this musical the most?

DL: I love writing musicals best as my music is employed to tell the story. My love of storytelling informs my musical choices and of course I always draw on my musical inspirations to craft songs that eventually make up the whole score, something I like to see as one work.

 

And as we await the world premiere of the musical, here’s Fried Rice Paradise by Dick Lee

 

Coming up next: Interview with author, Meira Chand.

 

Presented by OUE, The LKY Musical will be staged at the MasterCard® Theatres, Marina Bay sands from 24 July 2015 and is expected to continue through the Jubilee celebrations over the National Day weekend. (Tickets on sale at all SISTIC outlets)

 

Dick Lee, Meira Chand, Sebastian Tan, Adrian Pang, Sharon Au and Benjamin Chow at The LKY Musical Press Conference (13 Apr 2015)

Dick Lee, Meira Chand, Sebastian Tan, Adrian Pang, Sharon Au and Benjamin Chow at The LKY Musical Press Conference (13 Apr 2015)

 

 

 

My interview with Budi Soehardi


In 2009, CNN honoured a pilot who had founded an orphanage and funded it with his own salary. This man was Budi Soehardi. I had the chance to interview Budi recently for a publication and I am happy to say that my faith on humanity is completely restored.  Though, I meet inspirational people in all the fields that I work in, some leave their mark a bit more than the others. Not surprisingly, Budi is one of them. So, presenting a man who’s extremely genuine and humble in every interaction and whose positive outlook touched me greatly.

He ends his emails with, ‘Life is good, please be in it’ and that’s the sentiment that stayed with me.  It is a privilege to bring here the words of a true hero, Captain Soehardi.

CNN Tribute to Budi Soehardi

 

And here’s my interview, as published in Indoconnect

(Please click on the image for an expanded view)

Budi Soehardi Budi Soehardi

Dedicated to the extraordinary in each one of us.

Link


(Featuring: Psychologist Malini Shah)

September is an important month for me. It’s a month when I round-up my year, take a closer look at my priorities, dust my dreams and renew my relationships. It’s also a month when I let go of things that serve no purpose except weighing me down. What I call ‘things’ here are actually the intangibles like the failure fragments, the melancholic bits, the pessimistic moments and the doubts that have been borne of unfortunate events and circumstances and that have stayed inside of me as residue. It’s in September, that I let them go, I speak them aloud, share them with somebody, write them down and move on.

not-talking

Credit: Nataliedee

This post is for those of you who bottle things up. It’s time to talk!

In William Blake’s words-

I was angry with my friend;

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.

(A Poison Tree)

Negative thoughts and emotions have a way of fermenting in closed spaces and before long, the unexpressed feelings and sentiments have the power to consume the space it’s in, so talking to friends, family members or if need be, an expert becomes crucial. Let this be known that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, instead, it takes great courage to acknowledge that you need help.

According to Psychologist and Behavioral Trainer, Malini Shah, “every person needs help at some stage of life; we do seek help or advice from elders or friends and don’t feel bad about it. Similarly, taking professional help from somebody who is more equipped to handle a situation is better than struggling and taking a wrong decision. Early treatment helps to overcome an issue much faster. Therapies like CBT, Gestalt, Transactional Analysis help understand and cope with our personality traits, or lessen the intensity of negative emotions. Many past experiences condition our mind or create prejudices and this can affect our current behavior and interactions. Therapies help us understand and cope with our personality traits, or lessen the intensity of negative emotions.”

Here’s the rest of my Q & A with Malini Shah, co-founder of AasthaChrysalis (Mumbai):

Question: I understand that AasthaChrysalis aims to empower an individual through mind, heart and body. Can you briefly explain why connecting the three is important?SAMSUNG

Malini:  AasthaChrysalis means Transformation through Faith. It is the mind, body and heart, which can create this transformation. Our centre’s motto is believing in others’ potential, expressing that faith and then motivating them to believe in themselves.  An attempt without any one of these three will always be incomplete.

Question:  What’s the biggest challenge in your line of work?

Malini: Time management as well as the feeling of helplessness, especially, in personality disorders when the scope of therapy and counseling is limited to the person’s way of implementing.

Question:  The current generation faces issues regarding body imaging, bullying and stress at schools/ colleges. Is this a concern?

Malini: Yes, these are the concerns that tend to harm, and not just mentally and physically, but also because it shifts our energy and concentration from studies and things that are actually important for self development to other negative and self-demeaning thoughts. It can lead to self-absorption, self- pity, and obsession about body image and can cause withdrawn behavior, low self-esteem, and low confidence. It can also create unhealthy coping patterns like dominance, indifference to others’ feelings and emotions, as well as difficulty in being sensitive to others’ needs.

Question: Let’s talk about Eating Disorder. How can parents/ friends recognise the symptoms of eating disorder in their loved ones?

Malini: Any change in the normal eating pattern, like, if a child avoids eating with the family or vomits soon after eating, changes in weight –increase or decrease, changes in appearance – dryness of skin, hair, redness in eyes, general behavior of the child in terms of unusual sadness/irritation etc. should be paid attention to.

Question:  What are some of the subtle signs to look out for in people undergoing stress or depression? When you say ‘talking is essential,’ are you implying that there is a lack of communication now?

Malini: Subtle signs could be changes in behavior: excessive moodiness, getting irritated on small things, remaining quiet, lack of interaction with others or preference to staying alone, changes in diet and sleep patterns, weight gain or loss. Any other unusual behaviour patterns like crying, sleeping issues, nightmares, being too cautious or being hyper vigilant, avoiding people, unusual reference ideas (like I will lose myself if I go there) or incoherent speech and expression can be noticed as early warning signs of issues.

These days, communication is more impersonal or superficial; trust levels are decreasing. People are comfortable sharing without face-to-face communication AND THIS CAN LEAD TO IMPERSONALISATION. The ability to sustain and tolerate frustrations is less now and this is giving rise to reactive behavior pattern. People are confronting rather than sitting down and discussing the issue. In most of these cases a clear and good communication can help resolve any misunderstanding or confusion and can help to build a good & trustworthy relationship.

Malini’s final advice to the youth of today is: “Have your own identity as well as co-exist with others. You can stretch your limits and learn and grow from your mistakes.”

(This has been a ‘guest feature.’ I would like to thank Ms Malini Shah for her time and expertise and most of all for her commitment to spreading awareness. Ms Shah is an Affiliate Counsellor/Trainer PPC and the Co Founder of AasthaChrysalis, where she is also the Senior Psychologist and Counsellor/Behavioral Trainer.)

Leaving you all with the image of Mark Webber riding on Alonso’s Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix. It seems, Webber broke article 30.9 (b) of the sporting regulations with this act, which is a pity because I found the sight very endearing. Guess that’s life! And in case, you are wondering why September is the month, I start afresh, let me give you the answer. I was born in September.

formula-1-grand-prix-singapore-mark-webber-red-bull-fernando-alonso-ferrari_3008015

Previous Update:

Reading list- Midnight’s children by Salman Rushdie, The lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Movie- Naukadubi (Bengali selection), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
On the discussion table- Multifaceted education
Concern:  Prejudices

Featured Organisation: Children Cancer Foundation, Singapore.

Being a women means looking out for one another


350507-women-in-protestWe have just stepped out of a Women’s Day celebration and are already waiting for the next one. Just in case, you were sequestered enough from the scene, a Women’s Day is that one designated day in March, set aside by the UN to recognise women’s achievements and contributions. It’s the day the media showcases inspiring stories of  women and it’s the day social activists pledge their support to women related causes. It’s also the day when the average man on the street applauds one half of the population simply, for being a woman. Faced with a day of such multitude, we  women, do feel obliged to concur politely. After all, there’s this vague responsibility to confine to the group that we have been placed under. Women.

Historically, the first recorded Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909 in the United States and the date was not 8th of March, it was 28th of February. Women’s Day took the international status only after the Copenhagen initiative in 1911. Interestingly, the date was still not 8th of March. The date, 8th March gained importance only in 1975. The day was marked to promote the participation of women as equal partners with men in order to achieve sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. Soon after, violence against women became the prime concern and for the fourth time since 1999, the UN theme for Women’s day has shown concern for violence against women. The theme for 2013 reiterated it. “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

So, now that we women have been grouped as one, one wonders how similar are our circumstances and how similar are our stories. What is the similarity between say, Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States and the teenager in Ghana (name withheld) who is staying with a police woman because she has been abused by a stranger and thrown out of the house by her own mother? For that matter, what is the common link between Zhang Yin, one of the richest woman in China and Rajani, the Sri Lankan mom who is locked up in an Australian prison because she is deemed a security threat? Did you say nothing? Look closer.

On the surface, there may be no resemblances, no common thread that is running through their stories; no common denominator perhaps, but beneath the surface, there are undercurrents that do resemble each other. It matters not, whether their origin is the same, what matters is that they all aspire similar destination. All women, irrespective of their situation, their standing or their education have that same desire to retain their identity, celebrate their differences and have a say in their own destiny. Some of them even want to rule the world sans the male contribution, but we shall not go there now.

Do we need a Women’s Day?

American businesswoman and philanthropist, Melinda Gates thinks so. “To me, moving from ‘celebration’ to action is why Women’s Day is so important,” she says.
Actor-producer Lakshmi Manchu says, “I don’t find any need for Women’s Day because if we are trying to prove that we are different from men on this day, I find it weird. What is the need to prove that we are different from men? What is the need to declare that we are different species?”

There are many others who share the sentiment. Some argue that women have come a long way, are cared for, are holding important posts and are well-educated, hence the need for a special day should be reduced, but then privileged women are not a norm. They remain a minority and remain unable to represent a big chunk of those who lament about the hardships they face, the abuse that they have seen and the bias that exists against them.

Being a woman..

That one question garnered a range of answers.

When correspondent Rohini Parwar asked a woman on ‘India unheard’ about the best part of being a woman, the answer was without hesitation. “There’s nothing good or happy about being a woman.” Many other women across the globe agreed.

On the other hand,  Angela De Souza writes in her book, Being A Woman,  “The heart of a woman screams for romance and beauty, to be free to love extravagantly and to live intentionally.”

Answering a question on the subject, Miss Universe (1994), Sushmita Sen had famously quoted, “Just being a woman issushmita-sushmita-sen-24847350-400-388-1 God’s gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.” Even this answer had resonated with many women across the urban world.

Curious to know what people around me think, I posed this question to a few self- made women I know. An excerpt:

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Nomita Dhar, Editor -in-chief of Sun Media says,

“Being a woman is being powerful. Our capacity and capability is beyond a man’s imagination, especially because we have the power to bring children in to this world and nurture them. Women have many avtaars and each avtaar has its own strength.”

 

 

309284_4017747434567_510303574_nBhavani Prakash, Founder of Eco Walk The Talk says,

(Being a woman is) “a special honour conferred by the universe, to be a fountain of love, hope and compassion for her family and all of humanity. It undoubtedly comes with so much more responsibility, but the art and science of being a woman of substance, is do everything with self-effacing joy and a spirit of unconditional love.”

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Founder of Social Change in Action, Madhu Verma says,
“The most beautiful experience is being pregnant and men will never experience that, even if they have a sex change!! NOT YET. Seriously nurturing a life within you is the most amazing experience as a woman.”
Madam R, an uneducated yet self-sufficient entrepreneur says,
“Being a woman was tough earlier, but has since become easier, for at least some women. Finally, it depends on how privileged a family you are born in to.”
What does it all mean?

One thing is sure, whether we are on the privileged side of womanhood or have faced the brunt of all things unfair, we  are somehow in it together. In some way or the other; whether we want it or not, women will have to stand up for one another. Our successes will only be validated when the struggle of the women, across the whole world will reduce and then, only then, women, on the whole will thrive, will rise and will flourish. We women have to be the ones pulling ourselves up and helping each other along the way. Whether in rural India or in corporate corridors of America, the women all over have to move as one.

Exactly how do we do that?

American actress, Mae West once said that the best way to learn to be a lady is to see how other ladies do it. Great advice! We will do just that.

Update

If you have missed my March Update, here it is again…

Organisation with a heart (March feature)- HEAL, Ahmedabad

Reading list- Invisible cities by Italo Calvino & The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Movies- The Great Oscar line up

On the discussion table- Hegemony

Concern- Spike in the numbers of runaway kids.

Till next time. Stay inspired!

Meeting Motivational Speaker, Shiv Khera


We tend to follow, so we look for people to lead. The leaders, we presume are different; they have new ideas, they are fluent and they have mastered their craft. We are pleased with the package. We are also pleased that the leaders radiate charm; are great orators and have impressive personalities as well. What more could we ask for? Accessibility, perhaps? Why not? After all, we do live in a world of accessible information and if inspiration can be made available at a click, or between the pages of a readily available book, then so be it.

My meeting with Shiv Khera was short and yet it was adequate enough, to glimpse the traits of a leader in him. His followers have chosen well. This leader speaks with a conviction that convinces. Here’s our chat session that appeared in ‘India News’ (Oct/ 2011).