A little boy and the fair

Her original name is Sangeeta. But in our home, she became Sambika. How it happened it still remains a mystery. Probably, my sister heard it wrong when she shared her name on the phone. And then she didn’t correct it as she felt it was nice to have two names. It gave her a sense of ‘being unique.’

She comes to our house in Bhubaneswar every evening to prepare dinner for us. She is caring and has a charming smile. She is a single mother to two boys.

Few weeks ago, we had one fair near our house and it was called Shishira Saras (Looslely translated The beautiful Winter). The fair or mela (as it is referred in the local language) had stalls selling textiles, handicraft items, organic spices from different places in western Odisha , furniture products, wooden dolls and the like. There were cultural programmes in the evenings. And yes, the fair had a huge number of food stalls selling momos, chicken biryani, chicken pakoda, noodles, pithas (traditional Odia sweets), tea, coffee and ice-cream.

As a working woman, it is difficult to for her to take time out for leisure.Every time, her son asked her to take him to the fair or mela, she told him, “We will go tomorrow.” The fair was meant for a limited time. One day, he son told her, “Mamma, I will not buy anything at the mela (fair), I will not ask you to spend money on anything but I just want to go and see.”

I asked her, “Did you manage to take him?” She told me, “I had thought of taking him on the last day of the fair but I got so late at work that we couldn’t manage it.”

My heart bled for the little boy.

Note to self: There are so many things many of us belonging to the privileged class take in life for granted as it comes easily to us. We don’t even stop and count our blessings. We have so much to feel grateful for yet most of us find silliest reason to complain about life. Somehow, I remembered Munshi Premchand’s short story Idgah that evening.

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Goodbye 2022: There’s beauty in letting go

There’s beauty in letting go…

A relationship in which you can’t recognise yourself

A job that makes your soul stifled

A friendship that does not make you feel lighter and loved

A space that does not make you feel safe and secure

Memories that make you feel bitter and negative

As we are all set to welcome 2023 and say goodbye to 2022 it’s time to let go of any emotion that makes you feel small. It’s time to embrace largeness, love and compassion

Ano Patel on why she wants the world to go Bazinega

I had no idea about the world of zines until Ano Patel introduced me to the world of zines on a balmy July evening in 2022. To quote Ano, “Zines are a great medium for storytelling. Zines are short, quick, easy-to-carry reads – they can be anything between 10-100 pages. They can be informative, illustrative, reflective, entertaining. You can read a zine with your morning tea/coffee, when you are commuting to the office or when you’re waiting for a date/ a flight.” And then she shared with me her dream to create an interactive space for those who love to create zines and those who want to get happily lost in the world of zines. 

Slowly and steadily, Ano started her entrepreneurial journey. In the last couple of months, I have seen her giving wings to bazinega.in    
It is her labour of love and long hours of constant dedicated work too. It gives me immense satisfaction to see Ano as a  creative young woman pushing boundaries to start her journey as an entrepreneur. The year 2022 has been a year of discovering self, giving shape to one’s dreams and aspirations amid many challenges. The pandemic made many of us look at life in different ways and Ano’s journey is an example of that new inner quest. In this interview, Ano Patel as the founder of Bazinega shares her journey, dreams and aspirations for brininging zines closer to more people.
ano-1  (Ano Patel, founder of Bazinega)

 

How did you discover the world of zines?

I was drawn to stories from a young age. I’ve experienced the joys of storytelling in so many different forms – verbal, books, movies, theatre, art, and so on.

And then came social media. It was in 2019 that I randomly stumbled upon the hashtag #zines (so grateful for Instagram’s algorithm back then haha) and started following it. The posts were captivating, so immensely creative and individualistic – it opened up a whole new world of art, words, and colours for me. Every zine I saw told a different story; had a different form, length, shape; every zine had a unique voice in terms of its art!

Just before the pandemic hit us, I got an opportunity to collaborate with women around the world for a zine based on the theme – grey hair. We put together poems, fictional stories, personal anecdotes, and illustrations…but we only saw the finished zine in 2021.
Ano1
 
(A close view of some of the zines which are available on bazinega.in )
 
You started your venture bazinega.in amid COVID-19 pandemic.. So what was the thought behind it? Pls share the process of this journey.
I was delighted to see the finished zine. I reached out to independent bookstores in Bengaluru to see if they would stock the zine. It was a long and tiring process – explaining what zines are (to a few), negotiating commissions, getting rejections. I had also ordered a few zines for myself during the pandemic and saw that most independent zinesters sold their work only via Instagram or at zine festivals in Mumbai, which didn’t happen during the pandemic, obviously. The concept of zine distros didn’t exist in India. I could relate to their struggle because most people here are unaware of what zines are, and  there is no one platform for zinesters to showcase their work.
This is what gave birth to the idea of Bazinega in December 2021. I wanted to come up with a platform that united all these amazing zinesters so that they could connect and collaborate with each other, and showcase their work round-the-year! Of course, the process was much longer. I discussed this idea with a few senior colleagues to get their expertise on the feasibility of such a platform. My main roadblock was a detailed revenue plan (I still don’t have one). But I was so excited about bringing together zinesters, artists, illustrators, and storytellers on one platform that I thought revenue would be incidental and decided to take the leap.
Zines are supposed to be low-cost, quick reads, and I knew there wouldn’t be any profit margin here, since I was going to take care of the inventory and logistics. I started reaching out to various zinemakers in India in July 2022 while working with a web developer on the website. I also onboarded a social media manager to start marketing. After a few iterations, many discussions, and several sleepless nights, I launched Bazinega, House of Zines, on August 25, 2022, with 12 artists from across India and 47 titles 🙂
 What all challenges have you faced and how did you navigate through this?
The initial challenge was to figure out the brand personality, give it a look and a voice. I had no advisories, sponsors, or support (except friends and family, of course!). I had a clear vision as to what I wanted my website to look like and what features I wanted it to have. The next challenge was to bring this vision to life and get the website up and running. My web developer and I had to do a lot of research to get a structure in place. Planning a short-term marketing strategy with my social media manager had its own challenges. Since it was a new platform, it was also a task to get artists on board. But I am happy so many artists put their trust in Bazinega. It has been a learning process for me on a lot of fronts – visual elements, copy, payment gateways, legalities, marketing etc.

The biggest challenge which is an ongoing one is spreading awareness about zines, making our zineverse bigger. How do you explain to people what zines are? How do you speak to them about the joys of reading zines? How do you make people come to your platform and place an order? How do you turn new customers into repeat sales and brand loyalty? How do you engage with onboarded artists? How do you encourage them to make more zines? How do you collaborate with other brands to do joint promotions? How do you get sponsors to give people a better ‘awards show’ experience? All these are questions I am still trying to figure out the answers to.

 What potential do you see for the world of zines in India?
I truly believe in what Philip Pullman said – “After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” I feel stories are like fossils, they’re going to outlive all of us. Stories will be passed on for centuries to come.

Over the last few years, especially during the pandemic, our consumption patterns have changed drastically. We want everything to be short and quick, like Instagram reels, and TikTok videos, short news stories that we can understand at a glance. In these changing times, I feel zines have a great future. In fact, zines are the future. Zines are a great medium for storytelling. Zines are short, quick, easy-to-carry reads – they can be anything between 10-100 pages. They can be informative, illustrative, reflective, entertaining…You can read a zine with your morning tea/coffee, when you’re waiting for a date or a flight, when you’re commuting to the office (haha, I’m a Bangalorean). So yes, I definitely see more zinemakers and zine readers in the coming years.

 Share your future vision for Bazinega?
Bazinega aims to make zines an everyday read and encourage everyone to tell stories.

I hope to have 100+ titles within a year, launch an independent publishing house exclusively for zines and prints, and grow into a global community soon! I wish to make Bazinega the go-to platform for everyone to explore, create, buy, sell, and experience the world of zines.

 Recently, Bazinega had its first pop-up show in Bengaluru. Share your experience with us.
Ano2
(Ano Patel at Bazinega’s first real-time event in Bengaluru which attracted many visitors)
 
Bazinega held its first pop-up shop at Byg Brewski on October 29, and it was a fabulous experience. This was the first time I had put up a stall at a flea market. I got to interact with so many people! I spoke nonstop about zines and Bazinega. I sold more zines than expected and also connected with other participating stalls and musicians.
 
In fact, thanks to that experience, I decided to put up a Christmas pop-up shop at Indiranagar Social on December 24. This turned out to be a bigger, better, most amazing experience! I interacted with at least a 100 people, sold so many zines, and made a whole bunch of new friends. It is so gratifying to see non-zine readers turn into zine lovers.
How do you see the role of zines in the world of story-telling when we have a predominant influence of technology and social media?
While Bazinega aims at starting e-zines on the platform soon, I personally love the feeling of holding a book/zine in my hand and immersing myself in a world of stories. I’ve noticed a similar sentiment among readers at both my pop-ups.
While most part of our day goes in front of a screen, zines are a great medium for a digital detox. The stories, the visuals, the element of art, the shape, the size adds to the sheer joy of reading these pocket-sized stories. Zines are the perfect way to spend those few minutes you’d otherwise spend doom scrolling on your phone. You can read zines at a cafe, on the beach, in a car, on the toilet, during lunch!
The benefits are not just for readers. I believe every person has a story to tell, and zines are a fantastic, easy DIY medium to tell stories.
 
 
 

A gardener’s wisdom

During the pandemic, this plant chose to be mine. Few weeks ago, I saw the plant wilting with almost no healthy leaves. I got really anxious and made a phone call to Bahadur bhaiya. He is the gardener (popularly known as maali in India), who visits my house whenever I need some organic manure, some terracotta containers or something related to my balcony garden. He comes occasionally to generally check the health of the plants.

I gave him my account of this plant’s miserable health condition. He listened to me and then told him, “Didi (sister), this is not your newspaper industry where everything happens on a super fast mode. You people are always in a hurry in your bid to chase news. This world of plants and trees is the world of love and patience. All that you can do is to water the plant regularly and give it all your love and affection. I hope, you are talking to the plant too. Just keep on loving the plant and then you will see the difference.”

I felt better after talking to him and decided to follow his advice. And then after few weeks, I saw these new leaves blooming in all their glory. This made my heart smile. Thank you, Bahadur bhaiya for your invaluable lesson.

Goodbyes and celebrating life’s gifts

I bid a very warm goodbye to the Times of India, Ahmedabad on October 1, 2022. It was overwhelming to receive so much love and affection. I could not have asked for more warmth and love. I have been a journalist for 27 years and I have worked with some of the top media houses in India. I started my journalism career with Press Trust of India (New Delhi) in 1995 and it has been a roller coaster ride.

I have always believed that bringing out a daily newspaper is like playing a game of cricket. You are as good as your team and without your team, you are nothing. I have been extremely lucky to have wonderful colleagues who have made this journey rich and textured. As I embrace a whole new world of independent content creation and curation, I am really looking forward to interacting with new people and embracing new ideas.

On the night of my farewell dinner, my colleagues gifted me these two pages which have their impressions and memories of working with me. It was deeply moving to read their personal notes. I carry forward only love and light in my heart and many many stories of love, togetherness, sharing of ideas, endless cups of chai, anda (egg) maggi, pakoda, cheese sandwiches from the canteen (pre-pandemic days). Yes, we did fight over headlines, intros, stories, blurbs, catchy captions and meeting very strict deadlines on a daily basis. But that’s the beauty and thrill of working in a newspaper. The air in a newsroom feels different.

One of my editors had told us in a meeting years ago, “Once a journalist… always a journalist.” So, the stories will keep coming from me and now they will find different homes too.

Time

I live in two time zones, 

Mine and his, 

 I am always searching for his time in that little window called Google search,  

I am searching for time in Abuja, Beirut, Bishkek, Almaty as when he flies in and out of the dots on my fading atlas,

I am looking out of the window and watching the colours of the sky through the thin glass window that separates me from the world outside,

I am looking at my own watch and then the time showing on the Google search window ,

And then I am imagining life in his time zone,

My imagination is crowded with images of him enjoying a cup of tea/ in deep sleep in the middle of night / busy negotiating with his work life,

I am imagining because he and I are separated by time

I ask myself — what’s time?

I work in a newspaper… where I put my signature on tomorrow as I let the pages travel to the world from my computer, 

The calendar on my desk is always a day ahead,

I am always in a hurry to pack up today so that tomorrow’s newspaper arrives on time in people’s homes,

As I navigate between today and tomorrow,

I answer my own question — “Time is how you spend love”

And then I close my eyes and feel the warmth of love well-spent.  

Suddenly, his time zone becomes mine. 

Two years of Pandemic: Finding joy and ikigai (Last part)

While sailing through these two long years of COVID-19 pandemic, I often thought of life before the pandemic, life unfolding amid the brutality of the pandemic, finding joy while negotiating with life and finding one’s ikigai (purpose).

So, I thought of asking just two questions to people I know. The questions are:

  1. What gives you joy?
  2. What do you have in you to give to the world?

This is the last part of the series (it started with Kia Scherr), here are some beautiful souls talking about joy and ikigai even as we all continuto move forward with hope in our heart. In this concluding part, Parvathy Baul, renowned Baul singer and Kumar Manish, content curator and creator share their thoughts on finding joy and ikigai amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Parvathyji and Kumar Manish.

Parvathy Baul, Baul singer based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

‘Serving or Seva is what I have in me to give to the world

photo credit: @parvathybaul, instagram

What gives you joy?

Singing and dancing

2. What do you have in you to give to the world?

Serving/seva

**********************

Kumar Manish, Content creator, curator, social media influencer

‘Working on ideas and putting sweat and blood into it and seeing it flourish gives me joy’

1. What gives you joy?
Having a roof over my head and food on plate gives me joy, having time to play with my daughter and seeing her grow in front of my eyes gives me joy, having a loving and caring partner gives me joy, having parents and family members who give me support in tough times gives me joy, having a circle of friends, who are non-judgmental and supportive to core gives me joy.
To be able to help and support someone in need, irrespective of whether I know the person or not gives me joy. Working on ideas and putting sweat and blood into these and seeing the ideas flourish gives me joy.

2. What do you have in you to give to the world/ others?
I can give my time, my listening ear and trust that I will be available in case of need and help.
I can give my connection and network to help someone, I can give my digital reach to amplify voices and I can give my skills of communication and social media to someone who needs it. I can give my community mobilisation skills for social causes. 

Of pineapple juice and wisdom

Few days ago, I discovered a little juice shop in my neighbourhood. As I was walking around, I thought of stopping by. After carefully examining the list of juices available, I settled for pineapple juice for myself and watermelon and falsa for my husband. The owner of the shop told me they would pack it for me.

As I am a middle-class working woman, stress is a part of my daily life. Worrying is my fundamental right. To top it all, I am a journalist so that gives me a little bit freedom to question things around me. So, I asked the shopkeeper, ‘How are you going to pack it?’ He kindly showed me a dry run. Then of course, I didn’t want any ice in the juice as I am allergic. That also he readily agreed.

I kept a Hawk’s eye on him as he was getting ready to start the process. He must have sensed my body language because he told me with a smile, ‘ Madam, aap tension mat lo, juice ekdum mast hai idhar. (Please don’t get stressed/tensed. The juice will be really good). Both of us laughed. Then he said, “Madam, tension toh Ukraine mein hai. Idhar toh life tension free hai. Life enjoy karne ka, tension nehin lena ka” (There is tension in Ukraine… compared to that life is tension free in India. We should enjoy life and we should give tensions a miss.”

And then he handed over the neatly packed juices to me. All that I can say that I enjoyed the juice a little more because of this nice comforting conversation.

Two Years Of Pandemic: Finding joy and ikigai (Part V)

While sailing through these two long years of COVID-19 pandemic, I often thought of life before the pandemic, life unfolding amid the brutality of the pandemic, finding joy while negotiating with life and finding one’s ikigai (purpose).

So, I thought of asking just two questions to people I know. The questions are:

  1. What gives you joy?
  2. What do you have in you to give to the world?

Continuing with the series (it started with Kia Scherr), here are some beautiful souls talking about joy and ikigai even as we all continue to move forward with hope in our heart. Today, two bright and compassionate women, who are co-founders of The Good Story Project, share their thoughts on finding joy and ikigai amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Prerna Shah and Swati Subedar.

Prerna Shah, Co-Founder, The Good Story Project, Dublin

‘I find joy in beautiful landscapes, kind words or my writing’

What gives you joy?

Sometimes it is laying out a clean, nice (perhaps floral) bedsheet on the bed. At other times, it is about witnessing a beautiful landscape – a mountain, a body of water, a cluster of trees. But a lot of joys are fleeting, and I wonder if some of the things in my life were not to exist anymore – would I still find joy or moments of joy? Where would I seek my joy in? Would reading a nice, honest piece of work (good writing has traditionally brought me moments of quiet joy) still give me joy if I were dealing with some very difficult times and setbacks? I wonder because a lot many things have happened in the past few years, and it sets me thinking. Sometimes, a kind word, feedback to my writing also brings me joy – and I have found this from complete strangers, and also from people who are so well established and yet so humble and generous.

What do you have in you to give to the world?

I think I am a fair person, a nice person who generally responds with kindness and empathy to most situations. Over the years, I believe this attitude of ‘have a cup of tea with me’ ‘you are welcome to my home’ – has been reflective of my core personality. I would usually welcome people, try to talk to them, do things for them. I hope that what I have to offer to others is generosity, compassion, understanding and empathy. I hope that I do that in most of my relationships, even those that are difficult and complex. I also hope that I am able to use some part of my writing skills to write about things, people, situations and places that bring some sort of joy to other people as well.

Swati Subedar, Co-Founder, The Good Story Project, Lucknow

‘I am a good listener and that’s what I love to share with the world’

What gives you joy?

Creativity and intimate conversations with friends, who are at the center of my universe. While listening to music and spending time with self would instantly uplift my mood before the pandemic, during the pandemic I indulged in a lot of creative things. I bought canvas and water colours and painted, coloured mandalas, decorated my tiny space.

But what gave me joy during the lockdowns and the two year long pandemic were the conversations I had with my friends. There are a few friends in my life who know me inside out and vice versa. They know me more than my parents do. We have a little pact that we will tell each other every thing. Share the most private, personal details of our lives so that we can get things out of our system. No preaching, no judgements. Just sharing.

I am fortunate that beyond this friend circle, there are people who genuinely care for me. I am grateful to them for checking on me during the lockdowns and also when I was down with COVID.

These conversations keep me going and give me joy.

I wrote. Apart from professional writing that one does for bread and butter, I maintained a journal during the pandemic and penned my thoughts down. This writing was not daily or periodical, but when I would feel low and was on the verge of a breakdown, writing my thoughts down kept me going and also gave me joy.

What do you have in you to give to the world?

Whenever I can, I help people financially via charities and donations, or help friends when I can, financially and otherwise.

But the one thing that I have is that I am a good listener and that’s the reason why many people connect with me emotionally and don’t hesitate to share their problems, issues and secrets with me. These are tough times and emotional connects are extremely important. We all need someone who will just listen to us. I am glad I have been that person to many before the pandemic and especially during the pandemic.