The Art of Self-Branding

A FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE

“I write like a dream. But that doesn’t take away the effort I put into every book, every launch, every conversation, every interview and every thing associated with my work.. ” 

All around us, we see people blowing their own trumpets. And with social media, self-branding has got a brand new aggressive makeover. Almost every day, we come across such acts of self-branding. Now people are busy in advertising themselves on Facebook, Instagram and the like. Everyone is a writer, a photographer, a master chef, a film critic, a designer… the list goes on. Everybody is everything. The lines between amateur and professionals are blurred.

So, here as an Indian, I am going back to our mythology to understand this act of self-branding.

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From The Mahabharat 

Krishna tells Arjuna : “You can kill yourself physically by harming your body or intellectually by praising yourself. For when a man praises himself, it is intellectual suicide.”

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From the Ramayana

When Valmiki completed his Ramayana, Narada Muni wasn’t impressed. “It is good, but Hanuman’s Ramayana is better’, he said.

‘Hanuman has written the Ramayana too!’, Valmiki didn’t like this at all, and wondered whose Ramayana was better. So he set out to find Hanuman.

In Kadali-vana, grove of plantains, he found Ramayana inscribed on seven broad leaves of a banana tree.

He read it and found it to be perfect. The most exquisite choice of grammar and vocabulary, metre and melody. He couldn’t help himself. He started to cry.

“Is it so bad?” asked Hanuman
“No, it is so good”, said Valmiki
“Then why are you crying?” asked Hanuman

“Because after reading your Ramayana no one will read my Ramayana,” replied Valmiki.

Hearing this Hanuman simply tore up the seven banana leaves stating  “Now no one will ever read Hanuman’s Ramayana.”

Hanuman said, “You need your Ramayana more than I need mine. You wrote your Ramayana so that the world remembers Valmiki; I wrote my Ramayana so that I remember Ram.”

At that moment he realized how he had been consumed by the desire for validation through his work.

He had not used the work to liberate himself from the fear of invalidation. He had not appreciated the essence of Ram’s tale to unknot his mind.

His Ramayana was a product of ambition; but Hanuman’s Ramayana was a product of affection.

That’s why Hanuman’s Ramayana sounded so much better. Valmiki realized that “Greater than Ram….. is the name of Ram!!!! ”
( राम से बड़ा राम का नाम ).

There are people like Hanuman who are just happy to celebrate what their heart says. They are not hungry for praises. They are content with their craft.

So let us not be like Valmiki, thinking our ‘Ramayana’ is the best.

(Even as I was writing this, I came across this phrase in Hindi Apne muh miya mithu (It basically means self praise. In other words it means to tell other people how good and successful you are.)

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Humility

Last November, I got my flat renovated (I don’t live there.)  It was humbling to see carpenters, paintmen dirtying their hands, sweating it out to make a house beautiful in which they will never live.
Most of them are migrants from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Before they gave me the keys back, I went to my flat to treat them to chai, nasta (tea and snacks). It was my way to to express gratitude and say ‘Thank You.’  I have always admired people who create things or change things using their hands. It could be anything from cooking, gardening, pottery to stitching.
Seeing them sitting together and enjoying their share of tea and samosa was deeply moving. They all have families who live in far flung areas. They all are living alone in this dusty dry Ahmedabad — carving a life far from the land and people they call their own.  They are here to earn money so that their children can live better. They kept on asking me, “Didi, are you happy with our work?” All of them —one by one. It was truly humbling.
It is the rich and privileged who always carry that sense of arrogance about everything they offer/ give. Rarely taking a pause and asking “Are you happy with what we are offering/doing?”
And very few of them create things with their own hand.

Anonymous,the most prolific poet

When I was a child, I used to read many poems in the text books ending with ‘Anonymous’ (as credit). So, in my little mind, Anonymous was the most prolific poet in this whole wide world. And for some odd reasons, Anonymous was ‘HE’ not ‘SHE’ (well, gender conditioning begins early in life.) I used to dream of growing up to be ‘Anonymous’.  Till one day, I discovered the truth behind Anonymous. And there died my desire to be … Anonymous

 

For the daughters… I never gave birth to

(I have many daughters across cities, continents without giving birth to one. You don’t have to be a biological mother to share love, warmth, knowledge and kindness. On International Women’s Day, I am sharing a note I wrote to Simrita, my niece who turned 18 on February 15, 2019. She is as precious to my heart as many young girls finding their way in this world. This note is personal yet universal. Like love. So, here it goes.)  

Hi Simsi,

You are 18 today. If we were together today, i would have cooked a delicious meal of chicken curry and rice for you. Or probably would have taken you out for a coffee and walnut brownie treat. Or probably we could have talked and laughed over some silly jokes. Between you and I, we have so many years separating us yet connecting us in strange, warm way. As you are far away, I thought of sharing what my lived experiences and years of talking to talented, creative personalities from different fields (as a journalist) have taught me. I know, you will have your own list too. Some time I would love to learn from your list too and add more to my life.
*In spite of not so knowledgeable people leading many countries across the globe,   knowledge rocks. It’s cool to know about world affairs, science, literature, films, music. There’s no limit to knowledge.
* Health is wealth. No arguments or second thoughts on this.
* Aah, it’s so necessary to say NO when you feel like saying NO from within. If your heart says NO, be firm and say it. Standing up to what you believe is cool. People will respect you eventually.
* Cooking and driving are life skills (well, AI is yet to invade our lives completely). Let us not attach ‘gender roles’ to these skills. I am really happy that you are doing both. I can’t drive and still regret it though many people on the streets are happy and alive because of this lack of skill of mine.
* Money is an enabler, so it’s important. Earning money is important and investing money is more important. .
* Being surrounded by people/friends/mentors/family members from whom you learn something or other is very important.
* Lipstick and nail polish can be a mood elevator on some bad days. So, go for it.
* Develop your own signature fashion statement so that years down people will look at something and say “Wow.. that’s Simrita.” They will remember your style. It could be anything but your style should reflect your personality. Brands no matter how big don’t create personalities. Your own signature style does.
* Empathy always works. So also gentleness.
* Giving is as important as receiving. And vice-versa.
* Networking is a good word. Nurture your contacts.
* Stay crazy. Stay curious.
* Be punctual. Respect other people’s time as you would respect your own time. Amitabh Bachchan always arrives on time for an interview (speaking from my own experience of interviewing him). He can afford to come late being AB but he sticks to time.  .
* Goofing up sometimes is fine.
* So also being vulnerable is fine.
* Enjoy your tea/coffee slowly sometimes. Don’t always rush.
* Think of a  larger universe than your immediate one.
Enjoy life.
P S: How about savoring this strawberry cake? (Our gracious male colleagues got this for us at work today.)

 

cake

A story turns 10

#10YearChallenge : Few weeks back, my social media timeline was full of photographs with this hashtag. Well, here it’s a little different. I wrote this story for my niece Simrita in 2009 (She turned 8 then) as a birthday gift. Ten years later, in 2019, she is all set to join college in couple of months. Two days back, I found the story in my Gmail inbox when I was in a combative mood to delete old e-mails. I am sharing this short story out of love, affection and nostalgia. I am also realizing that how fast kids grow up. Simrita is all set to celebrate her birthday on February 15.

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A birthday to remember

Sui Moi is a beautiful little girl who’s just seven years old. And let me share a secret about Sui Moi — she’s crazy about her birthday (in addition to watching Tom and Jerry on television and eating large pieces of chocolate cake). She has always thrown big birthday parties for her friends. She loves to call all her six close friends and also three close friends of her brother Koko Moi who is six years old. Koko Moi loves his sister a lot and is always ready to think of new ways to bring in special surprises for Sui Moi’s birthday. Are you wondering when’s Sui Moi’s birthday? Her birthday is on January 15.

This year Sui Moi as usual had lots of plan in mind before bringing in another birthday. She along with her papa (whom we will call Papa Moi), mama (whom we will call Mama Moi) and Koko Moi had checked out the menu of a restaurant from where she had planned to order the food her party. And with every passing day, she was getting excited about her birthday. So also Koko Moi. He spent hours in painting a huge card for his sister.

baked birthday birthday cake blowing

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

But alas, sometimes things just don’t go right in spite of our plan. On 15th January morning, Papa Moi got a call from the restaurant saying that there had been a fire in the kitchen of the restaurant the previous night. Though no one was hurt in the fire but they had closed down the restaurant for some repair work. That’s why, they wouldn’t be able to deliver the food and they would give back the advanced amount. “Oh No, God can’t be so cruel to me,” screamed Sui Moi when she first heard the news and tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn’t imagine what would happen to her party which she had so meticulously planned days in advance.  What’s a party without food? What will she do? There are just some hours left for the party. All these years, Sui Moi’s birthday parties were much loved among her friend circle for the decoration, food, fun and loads of laughter.

But as they say every cloud has a silver lining. And immediately there was a family discussion on what to do next. Both Koko Moi and Sui Moi wore a very sad look. But then came brilliant ideas from Papa Moi and Mama Moi who declared cheerfully, “Let’s cook for the party and as they say nothing tastes like homemade food. All four of us will be the chefs and the party will rock as usual.” Sui Moi at first thought Papa Moi and Mama Moi were joking. But seeing their determination, she and Koko Moi decided to go ahead with this sudden plan.

The first thing on the menu was something from Koko Moi. Well, you might think he’s a little boy but don’t forget that he’s our little champ. So, Koko Moi said with a big grin on his face and a packet of Gelatin powder in his hand, “I will make Jell-O sweets for everybody.”  Bingo… and Sui Moi said immediately “I am going to be Mama’s assistant and help her in the kitchen.” And immediately Papa  Moi said, “Hey you guys, don’t forget me. I am also going to have fun in the kitchen and make some delicious potato sandwiches. But before that let me rush and get the cake and of course some packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases.”

With so much of enthusiasm in the air, everybody got into action. And Mama Moi immediately rushed to the kitchen to boil some potatoes so that Papa Moi can make the sandwiches once he returns from the market. And she asked her assistant Sui Moi to take out capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes from the refrigerator.
Then Sui Moi said, “Well, Mama, how about putting some music so that we all can dance a little  while cooking.” Our little Koko Moi simply loved the idea as he’s always the first one to shake a leg. Even as Papa Moi went to the market (this time he went alone cause there are so many things to do at home and Koko Moi was too busy to go with him), Mama Moi braced herself to cut those capsicum, mushroom, onion for making pizzas. And Sui Moi then had a request, “Mama, can you make those lovely chilly egg fry which you made just a week back.” Mama Moi hugged Sui Moi and said tenderly, “Darling, today is your day. So I  will do anything for my dearest princess.” And she took out eggs to boil while Sui Moi watched her with a big smile on her face.
In the meanwhile, Koko Moi was all set for making Jell-O sweets. He added the powder to the boiling water given by his mother… and after that he put them into small containers to be put in the refrigerator.

And then after 45 minutes, Papa Moi came back from the market with packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases and a huge chocolate cake (which he had ordered the previous evening). Everything went off smoothly and with music in the background, cooking for friends became almost like a picnic at home. So, in the end the guests at the party had : Delicious crusty pizzas, potato sandwiches with oregano, chicken nuggets, chips, cookies, colorful Jello-O sweets. And of course they had chocolate cake. It might sound funny but some of Sui Moi’s friends just couldn’t get up from their chairs after polishing off such a delicious home-made meal. After taking rest for a little while, they all danced like crazy and screaming at the top of their voice, “Sui Moi’s party rocks.” Ha ha, what’s new, didn’t we tell you before?

Are you wondering, what all Sui Moi got as B Day gift:

* She got story books, toys, cookie packets, nice colourful stationary sets, a beautiful necklace and a lovely beaded bag.

 

Smiles & Tears: The Big ‘C’ Lessons

February 4 is World Cancer Day.

I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show have been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in  JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?

  • Health is wealth.
  • Family is fundamental. If you are lucky, your family members are your angels. More so when the going gets tough.
  • Money is important. Money enables you to have choices.
  • Small is beautiful. So, there is immense beauty in taking a shower by yourself, standing in front of the mirror and putting on your lipstick, enjoying a cup of tea or  cooking a simple meal of dal, rice and egg curry.
  • Physical pain can make you feel naked. It can be really soul-destroying.
  • Ordinary can be extra-ordinary if you know how to be mindful.
  • Hospitals can be terribly lonely even when they are crowded.
  • Enjoy the present moment. You don’t know how one biopsy test can change your life’s narrative.
  • Be gentle. There’s no substitute to being gentle. When you are gentle within yourself, you are a better care-giver.
  • Looking after a cancer patient makes you erase irrelevant elements from life  (This will happen if you listen to the truth within yourself). Somehow you start appreciating a sense of minimalism. Over the years, I have developed an aversion for anything in excess.
  • It helps when you have solid friends standing by you. Having a conversation always makes things lighter. Never say ‘No’ to a good session of laughing. And to a large extent, friends are outsiders to the situation. So, they can give you a better perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • It’s very necessary to refill one’s inner self even as you are spending days and nights looking after a person. It could be a walk, conversations, a nice meal, good book, music, a new hair-cut, looking at the sky or just soaking in the Art of Being. You give better when you have something to give. For that you need to replenish your own self.
  • Be kind to yourself. Some days, you will feel as if you are losing the battle. Some days you will feel the warmth of sunshine. Don’t run away from feelings. If you want to cry, go ahead. Tears can make you feel lighter. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s fine to be vulnerable.
  • No matter how dark the night is, the morning will always break. And there are chances that you might feel a little better.
  • One day, you will be larger than your experiences. Till then, be open and compassionate.

 

 

Home

I had just walked into the coffee shop of a five star hotel in Ahmedabad. I settled down on my chair and put this purse on the table. Then I saw the young woman who worked in the coffee shop rushing towards my table.

purse

 

“Did you go to Bhutan?” (She asked)

“No, I didn’t go. My friend got this gift for me from Bhutan.”

“You know, I am from Bhutan. I am so happy to look at this purse. It reminds me of my home, parents, my brother. Right now, I feel as if I am there and enjoying the cool air, the mountains.”

“You must go to Bhutan. Bhutan will love you and you will love Bhutan. Please let me know before you go,” she told in the same breath.

In less than five minutes, I felt she travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhutan.

We exchanged mobile numbers and she really took care of us that evening. With her charming smile and grace.

Home is a feeling. Home is not just about physical space. And you never know, when and where home will pop up and make you happy. And at the same time leave you with a sense of longing for home.

I am yet to make that promised trip to Bhutan. I will definitely go there for Tara’s sake if not anything else. For the time being, a slice of her home is always travelling with me in my handbag.

What can be more precious than home?