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.

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.


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!


Acknowledging the Bitter

I usually write about the inspiring, the positive and the bright. However, there is no inspiration that has not struggled first, no positive that has not been engulfed in chasms of negativity and no brightness that has not been swathed in dark at some point of time or the other. To ignore these negatives would be great injustice to the spirit of positive. It is imperative for the pain to be acknowledged before any healing can ever begin. So, here I present a conversation with a broken soul that acknowledges the dark, the dull and the low. It is the silent musing that is often felt by many and yet seldom aired. The conversation may be between  two individuals, but it echoes the general melancholy of a generation that has waded through enough experiences, circumstances and hopelessness of the mundane.

A tinge of something bitter, that I have recognised in countless eyes and yet they deny its existence. Lots though, can be read between the lines…



How bitter? said I

Very, she replied.

What’s missing, do you know?

Or is something missing at all?

It’s incomplete, she said.

And yet it’s heavy, dark and slow.

What’s the reason, tell me why?

No reason, she said, but there’s no pulse, no fire and no wings to fly.

Are we talking about you? I said in alarm!

She continued,

It sheds no tears. It doesn’t even cry…

It causes no ripples. It’s something curled up and dried.

Is it you? I asked again.

She stayed ominously silent,

Then she said, no, it’s my empty inside.

(Source: Prionka Ray©)

This poem is dedicated to all the struggles, the doubts and the lows that make any comeback a victory of human existence. And to those, who have felt this at any point of time, you are not alone. Reach out and seek help. Acknowledge to yourself, if not to others! It’s only in acceptances that the healing begins. And then let us know of the comebacks because these comebacks become inspirations to many!










Be The Change Exposition- 2014

When 1,500 students, educators, parents and social sectors come together with a shared goal of doing good, there is just one way of describing the result: electrifying! And what a joy it was to be back at the event!

Madhu Verma, SoCh

Singapore’s largest showcase of social initiatives by children, the Be The Change Exposition (organised by SoCh in Action), saw another successful event on the 11th of November at SUNTEC Convention Centre and the event venue was abuzz with ideas, creativity and energy that synergized beautifully all over again! This year’s Exposition theme, ‘Unplugged’ was reflected in the various activities that encouraged the young to connect with themselves and with each other, without relying overtly on technology. The resulting response was both overwhelming and gratifying, as the children came forward with ideas, thoughts and creative suggestions that took the adults by surprise. Founder, Madhu Verma, echoed many other adult sentiments, when she said, “the children were so engaged… why can’t all the learning be outside the four walls of the classroom!”


Whether the students, danced to the energetic Zumba, engaged in the craft activities or captured their thoughts on post- its, hand prints or paper bricks, they gave it their 100%. As representatives of the future generation, they were engaged, interested and phenomenal! The 200 change makers, who showcased their social initiative projects talked passionately about their work and were excited about making a difference. As Nur Syariana from Greendale Secondary puts it, “we feel proud that we can actually help the society. It was difficult at first, but we enjoyed doing the project very much. It feels good to know that you can help people.” It feels good to know teenagers like you, Nur Syarina! In fact, it feels good to know each and  every student, who contributed to the society, with the intention of doing good. You make us proud!

Students from Greendale Secondary School with their brilliant prototype

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting nugget of information. Researchers Rosenthal and Jacobson suggest that every child is capable of extraordinary feats through self- fulfilling prophesies. Called the Pygmalion effect by psychologists, this theory refers to the tendency of the students to perform according to the expectation placed upon them. Thus, children tend to do better when treated as if they are capable of success. Does that mean every child can achieve great goals? The answer is indeed ‘yes,’ but first the right ecosystem of environment, encouragement and guidance have to be provided and that leaves us adults with a big responsibility: to nurture the next generation and bring the best out in them.

I leave you all with this thought and here’s a page from a book (by Edward Monkton) that I have been gifted recently.




The Young Volunteers: Part II

Two months ago, I had introduced you all to some young change makers in the community. It is my privilege  to present a few more of these blazing renegades who have not only rebelled against being passive but also retaliated against being helpless. Lamenting about a situation and waiting for someone else to help out is definitely not their working style. Their motto in life is to, ‘take action’ and to do it ‘now.’ I totally approve their style and that’s why they are mentioned here.

People generally have a tendency to group these individuals as people fired up with a passion and that’s all they are credited for. Pity, they missed half of the impact. I suggest that you take a closer look because most of these youngsters are not only passionate activists, but they are also amazing at time management, equally easy with being PR savvy and can teach the world a thing or two about being ingenious and creative. So, let’s read between the lines. These youngsters didn’t just make a difference to the less fortunate, they also managed their resources well, they garnered support from people who mattered and they found new solutions to old problems. They implemented a project and in turn, helped the community. So, if any one reading this post has ever felt strongly about a situation, here’s the ‘inspiration- pot’ to dip in to. If you have ever wondered how to go about doing something difficult, yet meaningful, get to know these stories. Perhaps, the fictional  Superman can take a little snooze, because in The Young Volunteers: Part II, I present you the real stories of real heroes.

Stefan Lyon

Stephan, aged 18, is one such young renegade. He has written and sold four non-fiction books for children and raised $120,000 over ten years, to build three schools in Kenya that educate nearly 1,000 children. He has also traveled to Kenya and visited the schools to connect with these children. In his most recent book, An Extraordinary Journey, Stefan tells these children’s stories and explains how he and they share a determination to live lives of strength and purpose. “I’ve learned that life can be unfair and it’s up to us to change that and make a positive difference,” says Stefan. “You don’t have to be rich, famous, or even an adult. You just need to have an idea and act on it.” No wonder then that our Superman, Stephan is the recipient of the The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. The  Prize celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from in America and each year, twenty-five outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 are selected for the honour.


Real Kids. Real Stories. Real Change

These children are extra- special or are they? Can the right amount of inspiration combined with right opportunity turn every child in to a hero? Garth Sundem thinks so.  “With the right role models, any child can be a hero,” says  Sundem. His book, Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around The World includes such heroes. The book is a compilation of thirty true stories of kids who used their heads, their hearts, their courage, and sometimes their stubbornness to help others and do extraordinary things. A story in this book is about eleven-year-old Tilly, who saved the lives of 100 people in Thailand because she knew the warning signs of a tsunami; another is of ten-year-old Jean-Dominic, who won a battle against pesticides – and the cancer they caused in his body and another is of fifteen-year-old Malika, who fought against segregation in her Alabama town.


Some of the stories are closer to home and there are incredible young heroes in Singapore too. For example, Crescent Girls’ students have led campaigns against smoking in their neighbourhood; St Hilda’s Secondary students have helped autistic adults by collaborating with Anglican Autism Centre; Greendale Secondary students have designed special exercise equipment to help the seniors to socialise while exercising in the elder home and the Clementi Primary students have addressed exam pressure and held motivational classes for their peers for better results. Isn’t it time that the world knew these stories? Young volunteers and change makers are the same all over the world. They think, they feel, they do. They hold on to their faith and they need a bit of the world’s support. The world in turn, needs more of these real heroes.

Here’s Noor Adelina’s story about the elderly cleaners and how she and her friends tried making a difference.

Singapore’s young heroes


To showcase the stories of the young change makers in Singapore and to inspire a fresh wave of change, Be The Change 2014 is back in its 5th year. For those of you interested to join in, here are the details:



And in case, you are wondering how my previous volunteers are faring, you will be glad to know that the passion hasn’t dimmed. Here’s an update from one of them.  Nidhi’s blog

So signing off for now. I am currently reading Alice Munro’s collection of short stories and find them incredibly powerful in their subtlety. More on the fictional stories in my next post. Till then, inspire and be inspired.


The young volunteers: Part I


Today I am going to talk about volunteers (yes, the ones on the left), but that’s coming a bit later. Before that there’s something else that I need to talk about. I am unable to start this post without acknowledging that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. It seems that it houses strange creatures and they are all crazy. It is also safe then, to assume that since the end was once prophesied, the crazy earthlings are trying hard, oh so very hard, to meet that deadline of doom, and they are actually eager to hasten the destruction. An obedient and hard-working lot, they are. So what, if they are slightly deranged? So what, if they are simply selfish? So what, if they commit atrocities against each other?  They still have many endearing qualities. Don’t they?

After all, they are diligent when they grab available (and unavailable) land; they are meticulous when they shell schools; they are methodical when they shoot down civilian planes and they can justify when they kidnap girls. Heck, they even shrug responsibility when their own staff rapes their own 6- years old student in their own school campus! See?And seeing is all that we do. We see the newspaper coverage, the pictures, the news feed, the forwarded messages and so on. It is almost as if we are amused to see these earthlings as they massacre, squander, raid and rape. So, do you want to see some (more) heart wrenching pictures of blood and gore, of rape and despair?

Oh, you do? Bad luck mate, I refuse to pander to your curiosity. I refuse to be a part of this ‘they;’ ‘they,’ who are mad enough to massacre this world and ‘they,’ who enjoy these stories of gore. Yes, I agree that we need to know but no, we don’t need to glamorise. We need to empathise, yes, but no, we don’t need to pry in to their grief. They deserve the dignity of pain and they shall have it.

Whose side am I on?

It is that elusive side, where people give peace a chance; where war is not an option; where no one, I repeat, no one, for any gain, political or otherwise, have the right to violate another life, in any way. Yeah, I am on that unpopular side. With such non- confrontational attitude, I will never attain success: so be it. I am also on the side, where hope is brought in to the forefront; where inspiration is celebrated, where empathy is a quality that makes you want to do and not just simply a quality to be talked about. And so, people who have done something beyond the ‘usual’ should be celebrated or at least congratulated on a job well done.

So, what about VIBGYOR High school in Bangalore? Do I want to congratulate them as well? Nah! Here’s their website. You can congratulate them yourself for allowing the rape of a 6- years old student by their own Physical Ed. teacher. Feel free to pass your ‘congratulatory’ message.


People to contact: Rustom P. Kerawalla (Founder-Chairman); Ms. Kavita Sahay (Director – Schools & Academics); Mr. Pratik Patel (Director – Strategic Planning & New Initiatives); Mr. Vispi J Vesuna (Trustee).


Meanwhile, even if this world is crazy and dark, there are indeed some stories that inspire and so, this is where I let go off my sarcasm, and present The Young Volunteers, Part I.

These are the ‘bright sparks’ of the world and they represent the youth that refuses to give up on humanity. Not only are these youngsters smart and driven, but they also are resourceful in their own small ways and show us some simple ways of giving back to the community.


Nidhi & Ishita Thakkar

Occupation: Students

City: Mumbai

Cause: Teaching slum kids.


Nidhi & Ishita Thakkar

Nidhi & Ishita Thakkar


Determined to make a difference in their immediate community, Ishita, and her friends, Arpit, Bhumika and Parth, set out to meet the people of the slum nearby, and convinced them to send the kids for ‘free tuition.’ Thus their first class was ready but the lack of space proved to be a deterrent. The team wanted to reach out to more students but didn’t know who to approach. Eventually, the Principal of KVIS, Ms Reshma Hegde, allowed them the use of the school premises and in barely 3 months, their class strength rose to an astonishing 20. This has encouraged the teenagers to cruise ahead and Ishita, aged 18,  is now determined to start her own NGO.


IMG_3687 IMG_3647


IMG_3691Nidhi, on the other hand, started out by volunteering for The Candle Project and a year later, moved on to an orphanage, to teach a group of children, aged, 8-11 years. The engineering student, likes calling them, ‘my kids,’ as they have become much more than just ‘her students.’ She teaches them basic English & Mathematics  and now they are able to spell, read and count. She is ‘proud of them’ and justifiably so. Nidhi says that she may have started volunteering for a cause, but now she is there every weekend, simply because they end up teaching her ‘more’ than she teaches them: from being ‘oh so patient…to being satisfied with what you have.’ When they scribble ‘thank you’ note to her, they mean it and that’s what, she says, makes it all ‘so worthwhile.’


Kokila Bhattacharya

Occupation: Student

City: Bhopal

Cause: Activist, Volunteer & Artist

_DSC8402 22

Kokila’s biggest mission, she says, is to ‘spread awareness about corporate crimes and corporate responsibilities.’ The teenaged activist likes to ‘decode advertisements that brainwash’ and feels strongly about all ‘aspects that encourage futile consumerism.’ Recognising the role of activism in the present scenario, she is equally vocal about Climate Change, Social justice and Journalism through design. Her mission, she says, is to be a ‘good human being.’

Kokila started volunteering in her early teens by joining ‘Justice for the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy’ and other related environmental concerns with the Sambhavna Trust, Bhopal. At age 16, she had organised an awareness event, called, “Bhopali Bachche,” that aimed to sensitise the young about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, arguably the worst industrial disaster in the world. They went on to raise money for the victims who are still suffering from the aftermath of the tragedy. This was achieved through film screenings, photo exhibitions and signed petitions.

The designer is also associated with creative projects, where she writes, designs, ideates and volunteers. The list of projects includes, The Peace Gong, a children’s newspaper based in Kashmir, AFRC India in Kerala, Prayatna and Ahambhumika Bhopal, a rural education centre where she volunteers as a teacher. Kokila works untiringly and when she says, “The youth are an invulnerable force,” I am inclined to agree.

Whether it is Ishita’s quiet determination, Nidhi’s easygoing camaraderie with ‘her kids’ or Kokila’s focused activism, the youth has arrived with a calm confidence and we should heave a sigh of relief.  Even in Singapore, the pilot intake of youth corps are ready to embark on community projects and more youngsters are finding innovative ways to give back to the society.

Here are some of them:

Halogen Singapore

Project Sunshine

Mother Teresa Club

The Volunteers Switchboard

Care Singapore


There are many more stories and many young volunteers to celebrate but that’s for another post. Till then, here’s hoping that the world stops spinning so precariously. As I pray for the families who have lost their beloved around the world, I look at the youngsters and say…

There’s hope still….