volunteering diaries: a pan-indian carrom board match in mother teresa’s hospice

As India gears up for Daan Utsav, the national Joy of Giving Week festival held from 2 to 8 October, this year has a special significance for me. In my role as a volunteer with the festival’s Mumbai chapter, I organize various events of giving for the week. A handful of them are usually held at the housing complex I live in. And guess what, this year one of the events is centred around donating groceries and spending a morning at the Mother Teresa and Missionaries of Charity’s Home for the Destitute here in Mumbai!

If you wondering what’s so special about this, well, it is a reason for me to revisit some rather magical personal memories.

Some time ago I had spent an afternoon, just like the upcoming one on 5 October, volunteering at Mother Teresa’s hospice for the sick, destitute and dying in Kolkata. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. A day I would like share with you today in my blog. 🙂 Continue reading

travel diaries: the true blue heroes of dharamshala

Meet Sunny from Chamba [left] and Rahul from Dharamshala [right]. Sunny is 23 and Rahul is just 18. They both work in a gift shop in McLeod Ganj.

Real heroes don’t wear shining armour. Neither do they strut across cinema or sport or on social media to the thundering applause of likes. Instead, real heroes live amongst us in our everyday lives, usually in anonymity. I met my two real, true blue heroes last week. 🙂

It all started with a mention of Dip Tse Chok Ling monastery whilst reading up about Dharamshala. The idea of a secluded monastery, perched half-way up the Dhauladhar range, wrapped in green forest was appealing. An alley, followed with a few hundred steps deep into the bowels of the valley, led me to it. On the way down, unfortunately, my hiking boots, perhaps at the end of their tether, gave way, and I had to pack my shoe’s sole in my camera bag. Continue reading

would you give away 50% of your wealth to charity whilst alive or in your will?

I just did. That is, I pledged aloud to give away 50% and more of my savings to philanthropy. And no, I am no billionaire. I am just an ordinary, working woman. This pledge is my birthday gift to myself. It is my birthday today. 🙂

It was not a spur of the moment decision. The idea to give away my hard-earned money was made subconsciously many years ago. The fact is, life has been pretty kind to me. I make way more than I need and so I figured I owed it to life to be kind in return. To pass on the blessings. What better way could there be than to pass on what I have received. But it felt nicer to acknowledge it publicly. Like I was setting myself free.

What made it doubly right was that I was not alone in my decision. I was joined by a score of others, all professionals like myself, guided by a desire to give back. Many more are giving it a serious thought as I pen this article—fighting both inner and outer battles. After all, it goes against the very grain of our social fabric to give away half of what we own.

The promisers so far:

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Continue reading

blogging workshops with me: evolve your blogging skills

Four years ago I was forced to re-evaluate my life. My father was in hospital and I ended up spending a lot of time waiting—waiting for visiting hours, counselling meetings with the doctors, test results. Times like these force one to look within and ask questions.

A seemingly simple enough question asked of me by my sister, over a coffee in the hospital cafeteria, triggered it further: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I did not have an answer. And that scared me. Like shit. It made me realize how disconnected I had become with my own self.

On the surface I had a fancy job in a fancy office. I worked from 9 to 9. But I had become so engrossed in the minutiae of deadlines and meetings, wrapped in the trees I had stopped looking at the forest aka myself and my journey.

A series of soul-searching questions later, I left my job, moved to Bombay and set up The Communique. I just knew I had to live out my purpose.

Purpose is a funny thing, wouldn’t you agree? Once we find it, it is hard to let go of it. I was lucky I discovered it—yes, it was in the same hospital. My dad was discharged, declared weak but on the road to recovery. And I walked by his side, with clarity in each footstep.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while would have surmised I love blogging. It is a deep seated love which goes back 19 years. Building capacity in communication is the purpose which brought me to Bombay in 2014. A commitment to share my learnings in communication acquired over two decades of experience and study. Rather disparate, you will agree. Blogging and capacity building in communication. And for quite a while I accepted them as separate facets of myself where the twain were unlikely to meet.

Till three months ago. Continue reading

about me: in a bit more detail

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Compliments of the New Year! 🙂

It is already the 7th of January, and it seems just yesterday that I was contemplating the closure of yet another year and what all it had meant for me even as it paved the way for a sequel. There was a sense of déjà vu in the air.

Except for one thing—a chunk of my holidays was taken up in finalizing my personal site. Tweaking it and polishing it to ensure it was perfect, for me at least. You could call the site my fancy online business card, for a better word. But why a personal site, you may ask? Is a blog not enough? Continue reading

i am a registered organ and tissue donor. are you?

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Every year, in India alone, 250,000 people need a kidney transplant, 80,000 a liver transplant, 50,000 a heart transplant, and 100,000 a cornea transplant. These statistics keep growing as a result of the increasing number of organ failures that are rampant in the human life cycle. Please note these are only estimates, based on known requests, since there is no organised data available in India.

So you reckon that you’ll register yourself as an organ donor, and even if some of us do, the numbers can be met. After all in a 1.336 billion strong nation, it is not impossible. Wrong. Continue reading

3 takeaways from arfeen khan’s ‘Make a Fortune Teaching What You Love’ seminar

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I am in a hall full of 250 odd trainers at Arfeen Khan’s ‘Make a Fortune Teaching What You Love’ train the trainer seminar. The advert had popped up on my Facebook feed.

Facebook’s research team knows I am in the training business, like all my other online activities it tracks. 1,400 people clicked and enrolled on Khan’s advert. A subsequent telephone call and form screened the 1,400 down to 250 who now sit around me in the hall in Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai on an early Sunday morning. The seminar is free. He is confident that 5 percent of attendees will sign up for the one year paid program based on conversion rate number rules.

There is a buzz in the hall. Khan is a celebrity coach, and the gimmicks are full blast on. Music, dance, fans and the related jazz. But it’s not all fun and games. There are three priceless nuggets I walk out with at the end of the day. Read on if you would like to know more. 🙂 Continue reading

the day I changed from an ugly indian to a beautiful indian

Whenever I see litter on streets and public places my heart squirms. I feel sick in the stomach. It’s just the way I am. When I was young(er) I often got into arguments with friends, and at times complete strangers, when they littered. It did not do much for my popularity index as you can imagine. 😛

For someone like me, hence, the move to India meant I had to learn to shut up if I was to have any semblance of civil conversations.

A firm believer of the three R’s— Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—my contribution to protecting the environment has been limited to following these ‘rules’ over the years. How could I do anymore? How can I do anymore? I, thus, excuse myself from the debris around me. It is the easy way out. Not taking responsibility for spaces outside my own personal ones. Continue reading

learnings from a non-violent communication workshop

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A dear friend and I have been having lots of conflicts this past one year—we have been friends for over three years now. Three years is a long time. Gruesome secrets revealed. Memories made. Familiarity bred. Currently we are at the ‘if we can have an argument free’ conversation, it warrants celebration.

Friendships, like all relationships, have a life of their own. They keep evolving, either into higher exalted versions of themselves or more often than not dissipating into a faded recollection. They need hard work. But what exactly? I must confess I am clueless. We are all different. My friend and me even more so. Continue reading

art focus – street art and dharavi

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“Bhaiya, Dharavi chaloge?” (Will you go to Dharavi?)

After being turned down twice, a rickshaw finally agrees to take me on the condition, “I will drop you off at the main road. I won’t get a return passenger from there… You will have to walk to 60 Feet Road by yourself.”

Dharavi is not the usual jaunt or destination for a Mumbaikar, least of all a Hindi speaking woman on her own who quite clearly does not have a clue about the ground realities of the place itself! All I know is some statistics, historical details and that the main road is the 90 Feet Road, and perpendicular to it is the 60 Feet Road which I want to explore for its street art. But more on the art later in the post. 🙂 Continue reading

art focus – curated bandra street art walk – st+art mumbai

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If Bandra’s charm could be codified, I guess this would be it. Cats and silver leaves—collaborative mural by Anpu Varkey (India) and Tika (Switzerland).

So what happens when 20 internationally renowned street artists from all over the world, and two passionate people from Delhi get together and decide to bring the power of art as a medium of creative expression to the streets of India, free and accessible to all? St+art happens.

From the 7th to the 30th, this November, over 30 murals in Mumbai transformed, otherwise drab edifices, into vibrant thought-provoking compositions. Luckily for me, a bulk of them were painted in Bandra, my home in this city. 🙂 Continue reading

why i became a volunteer at daan utsav

Last month I became a volunteer at Daan Utsav Mumbai Chapter. Many asked, why? Why not any other NGO? I think it’s because, in an intrinsic way Daan Utsav reflects a core part of me, and in fact of everyone.

I like giving. The material stuff, yes. But more than material things I like giving my time, my effort, my attention, to friends and strangers alike. And that’s what I like receiving the most too. Like everyone else again, I believe. Continue reading