When a virtual session boosts confidence to re-invent for the new world

Webinars, virtual summits, online panel discussions, Instagram Lives, etc. have become buzzwords in the corporate world during the Covid-19 lockdown.  Recently I attended one such talk by Dr. Anil Kakodkar, a renowned nuclear physicist and former director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Mumbai. Approximately 300 people were glued to YouTube, watching him speak on the advancements in energy and its impact on climate change.

However, this was a virtual forum with a difference. For the first time in seven decades, Amar Hind Mandal, a social organization in Mumbai, adapted digital platforms to host its annual spring lecture series Vasanta Vyakhyanmala. It was an anxious, nervous, courageous and a period of taking bold decisions for the volunteers trying to continue the 72 yrs tradition of this lecture series amidst the pandemic and series of lockdowns. Over 250 live audience, 1000 views and connecting with members across geographies was a moment of elation for this conventional thinking social organisation – giving them the confidence to take the digital leap in their operations, organization and communication.

Amar Hind Mandal’s first online lecture series received 1000 views on YouTube

As a silent observer, it was quite an enriching experience of understanding the learning curve. The popularity of smartphones and access to mobile internet had made our parents go digital. Like other fellow Indians, they use social media, regularly check WhatsApp and forward messages. But this simple exercise of attending an online session exposed them to other aspects of social media – What is a YouTube channel?, Do you pay for subscription, will it be an audio or a video speech?, how can I share this video with others? Can I watch this video later? The joy of listening to an intellectual talk from the confines of their house when the world is fighting Covid-19 and Cyclone Nisarga has just missed Mumbai was boundless. It was a moment of truth for a generation of Indians, making them further adapt and adopt a new means of communication.

While Facebook and WhatsApp have become a part of our lives, other tools like Facebook Live, Video-based meeting platforms, online seminars is still a novel concept for many. Apart from shopping and entertainment, Covid-19 has inclined us towards online tools and platforms in areas we have never imagined. If not for the pandemic and lockdown, so many of this audience of 300 people would have not experienced an online lecture series or a virtual session outside the corporate / professional world.

This incidence is like a drop in an ocean of individual, organizational, institutional and sovereign transformation that Covid-19 has enforced upon the world. I have seen an ordinary shop selling cold-cuts & poultry turn into a one-stop-shop for quick breakfast and ready-to-eat food, a food blogger using this period to reinforce the importance of simple cooking and supporting local businesses, from religiously sharing restaurant reviews on apps a girl dedicating lockdown to become fitter and healthier. The things we do, learn and unlearn, follow and let go during this phase will shape our lives as we emerge on the other side of this pandemic.

As for me, last two months have been a big lesson in facing a personal loss and challenges with stride, finding the silver lining instead of whining about the circumstances.

How have you coped up with this changed world during Covid-19?

5 Ways Caregiving Changed Me Personally

Recently I watched two movies that really touched my heart – Smile Please and The Sky Is Pink. Some stories resonate with you, making you think deeper, giving different perspective to a particular situation.

Nandini, the successful fashion photographer in Smile Please, struggles to come in terms with the diagnosis of early stage of dementia. She finds hope in Viraj, a stranger, who makes her believe in herself and continue to pursue her dreams.

The Sky is Pink is a rendering story of a couple who make it their mission to take care of their daughter diagnosed with a rare generic disorder. Daughter’s survival and happiness becomes a prime purpose of life for a mother, who is undergoing many personal struggles within.

  • Smile Please and The Sky Is Pink movies highlight the role of a caregivers during critical times of illness

Both the movies focus on another important aspect – role of family and friends during illness. Personal experiences have made me realize that it’s the immediate family and caregiver who many times need hope, direction and empathy.

The care givers go through a different journey – coming to terms with the diagnosis, doctors, taking sensitive and important decisions, finances, etc. Above all an emotional phase – dealing with the patient, people around, managing daily lives, so many of them. At this point it is hope and their courage that helps caregivers sail through this storm.

Perhaps it’s the reason why I connected so deeply with the story and emotions. Last three years I have discovered so many aspects of my own self while attending to my mother’s illness. Deep within you become empathetic, start valuing people in your lives, making you realize the importance of good health, finances and even your professional and personal goals.

How did this phase change me?

  1. I started taking care of my own health
  2. Becoming fit and eating health became more important
  3. Developed patience, empathy and more gratitude
  4. Overcame psychological barriers
  5. Learned to cook some more recipes

Hence, Smile Please, The Sky Is Pink have faith and hope, discover yourself during the darkest of the times!

G – Garden View #AtoZChallenge

I ways associated garden with swings, see-saw, slides. Where children play. Recently I moved to a new house, which overlooks a garden.

Garden for me has somehow changed. I see people walking, exercising, morning yoga classes, someone comes to the garden to study, while someone else is working on a laptop maybe before going to college or a meeting.

I have started enjoying the silence after garden closes. So many times after a hectic day my best way to unwind has been to sit next to the window looking at the garden. The trees, grass, smell of the fresh watering & dim lights are soothing.

Yesterday was Gudi Padwa, a new year for Maharashtrians. Sharing the picture of our Gudi with a garden view

F – Fishy Tales #AtoZChallenge

Last Sunday I visited a fish market after very long time. It was refreshing in many ways. While malls, e-stores are convenient, I enjoy buying certain things myself and Fish is one of them. Observing my grandmother and then my mother I have learnt buying a fish is an art and bargaining is the masters! I am fairly good at art and fail in masters.

In my childhood we bought fish at the doorsteps. Our regular firsherwomen would visit us at a particular time. During my primary schooling, it would be the time for my school bus to arrive. The sight of my trying to jump over the huge fish basket was common. Granny would be checking the fish and bargaining with one eye on me to see if I am going down the staircase without falling. On some days I would get a chance to watch this routine process, try and imitate my grandmother. My cheeks would grin with a smile when the fisherwomen slipped couple of more pieces of prawns, Bombay duck extra to please me.

Over years we developed a different bond with fisherwomen. I would be eager to wave them out if I see them around in the area. Granny also knew what kind of fish to buy from which lady. Each of them had a unique way of selling fish. Many years later when I attended wedding of one of the fisherwoman’s grandson, I realized what this bonding was. The smile on her face on seeing us at the wedding said it all, likewise for us!

It was my mother who taught me to buy fish from a market. A few years later she started buying fish. Again she had her set rules and preferences. Our fish destination was the famous City Light market at Matunga, it remains so.  This market is packed with people and a variety of fresh catch.

My mother would take a direct bus from office, buy fish and come in time to cook it for dinner. Her shopping bag introduced me to huge pieces of surmai, king size prawns and fatty pomfret. On weekends I started accompanying her and was learning other side of household shopping. Buying other necessary items, other than fish. How to make effective use of this single visit. Round it off with a spicy pani puri !

And what I called the Masters – bargaining I observe from my father. After every visit to the fish market he asks me – what price did she quote, how much did u bargain for? Then I get advice on how should I bargain, what should I quote.. something I am yet to learn.

How can I trade these fishy tales for an online delivery? Will you? I rather enjoy my fish and the happiness!

D – Dadar #AtoZChallenge

Our birthplace is always close our heart. For me it’s Dadar – a central place for all Mumbai citizens to travel. Dadar in literal terms means steps. And indeed it has been a staircase for me to become the person I am.

Often we relate our behaviour or who we are to a particular country, city or a town. From the Indian context it would mean a Delhi vs Mumbai person, Mumbai vs Pune person. We unconsciously develop traits or identity of a particular place. On thinking deeply, I think it is our immediate neighbourhood or a place that plays a critical part in this process.

While I am a ‘Mumbai girl’ Dadar is a part of my personality. It is associated with connectivity, buzzing with people, socio-cultural developments, theatre and sports, markets thronged with shoppers. I find so many similarities and identify with many other.

  • Growing up in Dadar has been like a sponge. It offers ample opportunities to absorb and learn – from cultural events, sports, educational institutions to political developments. Probably my curious mind was developed because of this.
  • The Badaas attitude – The safety, security and cohesiveness of this place never made me think twice of making my own choices. Not to be afraid, discover new things, and meet people – providing a free and open environment.
  • Dadar has taught me to be inclusivity. To get along with people and be a team player. The old wadis, long last neighbours creates the community bonding. Teaches you to be caring, compassionate and makes one an empathetic person.
  • Enjoying culture – Festivals are an intrinsic part of Dadar from every angle. Traditionally People across the city and from outside throng Dadar market for festive shopping. It makes me wonder with so many shopping malls, new shopping places and hip places why is Dadar market always buzzing with people. Maybe the answer lies in its identity.
  • Food and its evolution – Dadar is known for famous Maharashtrian eateries, local seafood favourites and popular street food joints. In today’s scenario, it doesn’t offer many ‘cool’ options for pubs and clubbing. But it still has a distinct evolving food culture. Think of it, I am so much like that. I love to explore new restaurants but yet stick to my roots with a typical CKP fish preparations.

Last but not the least how can I forget Dadar chowpatty and my love for sea!

Have you ever wondered how your birthplace has shaped your personality?

C – Change #AtoZChallenge

Many years back while returning home from my classes my head was buzzing with thoughts. I came home, opened a diary and penned down my thoughts – Change is the only constant. In the pre-dotcom days, didn’t know I was actually writing a blog.

From maintaining diaries, to writing blogs, pen-friends to online friends, change is indeed constant in so many aspects of life. People, relationships, jobs, habbits, everything changes. The change is good. But on retrospect I think Change is becoming transformative. Look around us, even 2-3 years seem to be so different. Today I am using the internet from my mobile hotspot without any network problem. This itself is a small yet big change where mobile internet was seen expensive just 3 years back..

When I say Change is transformative, I think of positive change. A change that makes you learn new things, explore new places, and discover newer facets of your own self. Not because you have to, but because you want to. And that is a significant change.

Personally if I look at short span of last 3 years, so much has changed – my eating habbits, interpersonal skills, attitude towards looking at failures, ability to handle adverse situations, courage to be more responsible and enhancing professional capabilities.  These subtle and subconscious changes lead to a bigger trans-formative change.

Important to know if what did we learn from this change. How will we be lead the change that is waiting at the doorsteps? More so when this change is guided by technology – in our personal and professional lives, from toddlers to senior citizens.

I have decided to lead it this way –

  • Changing attitude towards health & fitness
  • Improving professional capabilities
  • Making some concrete goals
  • Becoming a compassionate person

Am sure when I look back at this blog, I will see the transformative change.

Your thoughts?

B – Books #AtoZChallenge

Since I started blogging again, I realized many bloggers participate in different online challenges, contests etc. One of the popular challenges I realized was #AtoZChallenge, during the month of April. I always had it on my mind to participate, but time just flew by I realized it’s already April.

As a new to the blogging space, I didn’t know how to go about it. Also bloggers plan themes for this challenge. None the less I decided better late than never. So here I am attempting my first ever challenge with Random Thoughts.

B – Books

Books always intrigued me since childhood. I use to subscribe to a neighbourhood library during summer vacations. That was the time I read a variety – from glossy magazines, autobiographies, fiction, to the teenage books of Secret Seven et all…

But the most special memory is of sharing books with my grandmother. My father had subscribed to another local library which gave two books at a time. He use to mostly bring Marathi books so that my grand mom could also read. Thus, there was a time I was exposed to a lot of Marathi books. Looking back, it was a golden period as after that I did not really catch on reading Marathi books.

As in other aspects in our lives, there came a phase I completely stopped reading for myself. It was always related to academic or professional reasons. During this time my mother started second phase of her education – so we again had Marathi books in our house.  My brother caught to reading, which led to completely different kind of books – on finance, self – development, history & wars and also on exercising and following good diet.

My interest in reading books was subconsciously and consciously reviving. Meanwhile, I found another medium to keep in touch with reading. BooksonToast, a Youtube platform that one of my colleague started. Instead of browsing endlessly on the net, I started following the videos. It was a rich online resource, again exposing me to a vast variety.

This variety is what I have always enjoyed. In that sense I am not restricted to a particular genre, author or style. So I never really had a favorite author, but enjoyed the company of book !

Consistency – the key to success

I restarted my blog around this time last year. One day I realised  I  have stopped thinking on my own – my writing and thoughts have been restricted to my professional requirements. It was good enough a trigger for me to relook at blogging..

When I started afresh, it also offered me an opportunity to learn so many things. Because blogging itself had changed so much. Apart from writing posts, there were so many other skills I wanted to learn – making creatives, using different tools etc. I was happy with the initial response to my posts.

There came phase when I completely stopped posting. Not because I did not have anything to post, but just could not put my thoughts together. Weekends passed, weekdays were occupied. That’s when I decided I needed to be consistent.. it comes with so many other things – planning, writing, thinking.  So today for the first time I just logged in and started penning down my thoughts…

Another area I really worked on being consistent is in exercising. I have earlier written about how I overcame the psychological barrier about fitness. But this time I decided to be consistent. I put exercise over everything else for last 3 months – social life, work. The results started showing. I started feeling good, That’s when again I slipped. I missed my sessions. But the good thing was I was missing exercise.. I again decided to challenge my inconsistency..

These and some other things have made Consistency my measurement of success for 2019.  I want to be consistent is every task I do.

What are your tips of being consistent?

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Mumbai’s jungle….

As we boarded the bus, the honking of vehicles, glittering street lights, sounds of breakfast sellers, morning walkers faded away to a thick envelope of trees and foliage. Wading through the way, I realized my mistake of not carrying a jacket along. It was cool, windy inside Mumbai’s very own jungle – Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

We had joined the nature trail to the park’s highest point. Our guide Nilesh made the 6 km uphill trek a pleasant discovery of the national park and its expanse:

Bamboo Hut Walk – A dense walk earlier, bamboo trees give 60% more oxygen than regular trees.

Ashok Van: I associated this name with an area around the park. The trail showed me, it’s a dense area with ashoka trees. So thick that the temperature can be 3-4 degrees lesser in this part, sun rays barely pass through to the ground.

Ghost Tree: It reflects moon light and keeps peeling itself to become white. Can be seen from the highway, resembles a lady in a white saree. Insects and birds flock to this tree for mating.

Karvee Trees: They flower once in 7 years. Flowers grow together, die together. Tribals use these trees to make huts.

Kanheri Caves: The Park has over 100 caves and was a Buddhist city of trade once upon a time.

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The Ghost Tree
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Bamboo Hut Walk
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View from the Highest Point

The nature trail brought alive a city landmark, which otherwise lays confined to our textbooks. More so, it made me aware of the need to explore my city as a tourist and equally appreciate the surrounding nature.

What have your experiences of rediscovering your city?

Travel date with Mom

This year I planned a long standing solo travel and a hard earned break to celebrate my birthday with myself. When my father and brother came to know of my plan, their first reaction was – take Aai along. For a while, I was that grumpy child not wanting to share my toys with anyone. And she would be the other child waiting to put her shoes finding the smallest opportunity to go out.

Few days later Aai & I boarded an early morning bus to Nashik. My solo holiday break was now going to be shared with her, and my dream of going on a solo trip continues. We enjoyed wine tasting & tour, a lazy lunch, bought some farm fresh vegetables and most importantly relaxed!

This was probably our 4th or 5th holiday together, just me and her. The first time we travelled alone was to Nainital, almost 10 years ago. Remembering all our holidays, I realized we both have agreed or are comfortable on a certain pattern and enjoy it:

  • Non-touristy holiday – Either travel off-season or visit a place that is not very crowded
  • Homestay over hotel – I introduced her to homestays, and now she prefers it over hotel. A good farmhouse / nature stay and home cooked food!
  • Local food – At restaurant I was thinking of ordering some Paneer starter. She quickly said order Misal, eat local food we keep eating Paneer all the time.  My memory jogged to our Coorg holiday where I took her to a Tibetian restaurant, a first for me too
  • Comfortable travel – Bus, train, flight, car; mode of transport does not matter. It has to be comfortable and flexible to travel
  • Relax or enjoy some activity – While I was busy acknowledging birthday wishes, she enters the room and says “they have so many books. I picked up books on travel, philosophy and wildlife”. The wintry mornings meant we woke up late, bathed in the morning sun followed by a hearty breakfast. Realized it was a luxury for both of us

On our way back home she mentioned she trip has given her the confidence of travelling again, eyes have regained some strengthen to look far, sun is not hurting much.. She was finding a new ray of hope amidst her journey of recovering from a major illness.

A different birthday present I gifted myself…