Thursday, August 29, 2013

A little note to someone special.

How is it possible for two people to be so very different, and yet so alike in so many ways? How is it possible for two people to fight over the silliest of things, argue, sulk, and yet the next moment look at each other and burst into laughter, all anger dissipated? How is it possible to get so mad at each other that you want to kill the other person, yet not be able to sleep unless the other is with you?

I don't know how it is possible, but I can tell you it very much is.

He is one of the most determined people I know. He really has an iron will and once he makes up his mind about something, it stays that way. He will not be swayed.

The other good thing about him is his patience and accepting nature, when the person means something to him. No matter how much you irk him, he would still be patient with you.

Professionally, I have seen his career soar. The people who he has worked with tell me what a great team-player he is. Almost every management trainee who has worked under him, has been over to our home, for a meal and I am used to them raving about him and singing praises about him.

For each of my books, he is always my first reader and my first editor. It is him I first mail the chapters to, as and when I finish writing. I can count on him to give me the harshest of criticism and also the most wonderful praise and I can be sure it is well-deserved.

I can also count on him to calm me down, when I am exasperated about something, which I often am. At my book events and at my speaking events, I am always overwhelmed and deeply moved to see the pride on his face.

He  is always there for me, when I need him. And only he knows how much I need him for even the smallest of things and the biggest of things. (Baby did you see my pen? Baby, will my book do well?)  :-)

He always tells me 'Remember Preeti, In life, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies'.

But he forgets one thing--that there can be permanent best friends :)

Happy birthday to my bestest friend ever!
May we celebrate many many many more birthdays together.

With all my love and then some more :)

Photo by Ranna .M.V    E mail: R@ranna.in

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

A simple thing you can do to fight discrimination against women-- MANifesto.

Like most people in this country, I am horrified, appalled and deeply disturbed by yet another incident of gang-rape, this time in Mumbai. I had raised my voice when it had happened the last time. You can read the post here.

And now I am compelled to write yet another post.

The fact is Indian culture is deeply tinged with misogyny--whether we accept it or not. Years and years of social conditioning has ensured a bias towards sons, whether we acknowledge it or not. Women in India have to be really scared today, to even step out after 5.30 pm, and sometimes even in broad day-light.

When I first moved to the UK to live, I was amazed at the sense of pure freedom I felt, as a woman. It was something completely different from what I was used to,in India. It was in UK, that I first felt *respected* as a woman. Nobody saw me as anyone's wife or mother or daughter. I had my own identity there--I was Preeti and that was it. I can't tell you how liberating that felt. Unless you have lived in India for most of your adult life as a woman, and then moved to a country like UK, or  the U.S , you would probably not get the full impact of what an amazing difference that makes, in the quality of life one leads and how much it empowers you to make the choices that you do.

When I moved back to India, after living there, I felt  nauseatingly stifled in the first few months. I had to watch what I was wearing, I had to take in account what time I was going, where and most importantly with whom. Mostly, I just felt unsafe. All because I was a woman, living in India. I hated it, but like millions of women in India, I 'adjusted' to the situation and learnt how to manage.

The fact is, this gender-bias is something which is so deeply embedded in Indians, that many a time we don't even realise that we are guilty of the same. I have many Indian men (really good human beings) as my good friends and yet in one way or the other, they would be somewhat guilty at one point or other, to have made a sexist remark or to have simply discriminated against women, without even being aware of it. I tend to forgive and not make an issue, as basically they are good guys who won't even dream of raping a woman, disrespecting her in any way. And yet, they are unaware about how they might be contributing to women being treated as second rate citizens, less than a man.

I can cite many examples.

 If you are a man who expects that your wife  makes that morning cup of coffee for you, and serve it to you, (more so because she is a housewife, and she does it 'willingly' and 'She  really does not mind') I urge you to think if you are discriminating.


If you are a man who has made a remark like 'fat cow' after looking at a woman's photograph, you are discriminating.

If you have ever made a remark against someone driving a vehicle, just because the driver happens to be a woman, you are certainly discriminating.

If you are a guy who thinks that the air-hostesses in Air-India are 'aunties' and 'I would want young females to serve me' you are discriminating.

If you are a man who thinks about 'saving for my daughter's marriage', you are definitely discriminating.
 
The common Hindi swear word 'Bho***i' and 'Beh*****d' and 'M*******d'  have become so much a part of daily speech. I am told that if you live in Delhi, UP or other northern parts of India, this just becomes a part of your vocabulary, so much so that you become desensitised to using these. You may argue that using words like these immediately does not catapult the man to a rapist or a potential rapist category. But that is not the point.

The point here is creating *awareness* about how even our daily acts can make a difference. This morning I came across a Manifesto through Peter Griffin (@zigzackly on twitter) and it struck a deep chord in me.

It asks 'What simple steps can you take as a man, to fight discrimination against women'?

Many men have submitted their pledges, and I urge all the men (particularly Indian men) who read this post to do so and to share it on your social media pages.

You can submit them in this link. (and it can be anonymous)

http://realmanifesto.tumblr.com/submit

Among the many pledges submitted, the following ones made me want to applaud (do read them) :

http://realmanifesto.tumblr.com/post/59205559464/i-will-not-tell-the-adult-women-in-my-life-what-to

 and this which many Indian men are guilty of, and in fact think it is 'noble'

 http://realmanifesto.tumblr.com/post/59205700557/i-will-remember-all-women-arent-my-sisters

and also this one:


 http://realmanifesto.tumblr.com/post/59205682212/i-will-not-promise-not-to-swear-but-i-will


If you are an Indian male, I urge you to think about this and make a  pledge today.

To make that tiny difference in a woman's life.
You would have contributed in a small way---made a difference.

And these little steps go a long way.
Do it..and come back here and leave me a comment saying you have done so.

I shall applaud you for it.
So will millions of Indian women.
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

You cannot please everybody



So, I have just got back from IIT Kanpur, where I was invited to speak at the E summit 2013. Times of India carried a news item about it.

 I spoke about my journey as an author and emphasized the five lessons that I learnt along the way. I was told I spoke really well- it was powerful and made an impact. I was glad to hear such praise.



It is interesting to see the kind of reactions, that 'success' spews. Especially so, if the 'successful person' in question is very accessible by mail or the social media. Almost everybody that I meet or encounter from my 'past'(  'past' refers to the time when I  was an unknown nobody)  has something or the other to say about my books, about my writing, my poetry, my blog-posts---anything that comes to their mind. Do they pause to consider how I feel about their opinions? Ninety percent of the time, it is a no.

Today a friend from my past, whom I have not met or spoken to, for the past ten years, got in touch. She loved my book and she was indeed happy for my success and was genuinely proud of me. But what intrigued me was the slightly accusatory undertone (I am sure unintended) which I couldn't help noticing . In the course of conversation, she mentioned that today she could not hold back any longer and she had to tell me about my book (she sure got my attention) and she went on to tell me how much she loved it (so far so good). She said she had tried to get back in touch and since I did not show interest, she left it. She also said 'I know you are a big person now.' I said it was the price of fame, and I would surely write a blog-post about it, 'explaining'. And this is my 'explanation'.

The fact is, my life has completely changed in the last 6 years. If I were to draw a graph of my career growth, it would look like this:


photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1426748




The fact (which most people miss) is also that I have worked bloody hard for it! Incidentally, I noticed a common thread in what all the other speakers at the E-summit at IIT Kanpur,  had to share--- That they all work long, long hours and since they enjoy so much what they do, it doesn't feel like work to them.

It is the same for me. My fifth book will be out in November (Yes!! :) I am in the editing stages. Will share details--watch this space). So, that is five books in four years :)  (My first book had come out in October 2008).

The exchange that I had today,  made me think about my working days. I do have a LOT of things going. It was only today, after a gap of nearly 10 days, that I managed to have a long conversation on the phone with one of my closest friends who is perhaps even busier than me. (a remarkable woman who is a single parent, a very successful entrepreneur and her life story is one of the most inspiring stories ever--I plan to write about her someday).

Most days, my day begins at 5.30 AM and I am working late past mid-night. . I don't go out and socialize in the evenings, which I see most people around me doing. (Instead I prefer playing badminton or a game of chess with my daughter ). I don't watch television at all. I work even on weekends.

 I also spend loads of time with my family, go for walks, do my yoga and I read a LOT, apart from my art and writing. I watch some awesome movies too.

 I wouldn't have it any other way.
Most people who don't know me wouldn't understand my choices.

Sometimes, I am annoyed at the 'friendly suggestions' offered about my lifestyle, about what I express on FB and about my blog.  One person from my past, who again got in touch with me after a gap of 20 years, pinged me and asked me what I was cooking for dinner. Being the polite person that I am (really, I ought to be a little less polite) I answered his frivolous query, whereupon he commented  'Oh I see..you are taking the easy way out.' WTF! You can be sure he never got a response from me again. Many weeks later, he pinged once again to comment about how I have become too busy for friends. I did not reply to that one either.

I get that all the time, from the people from my past. The truth is I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. A lot has happened and I have changed a lot since. And when you reminisce about the 'good old days' I fail to see the 'good' in them! No, thank you very much---I like my life now!

I know many people probably would presume that I now have a bloated ego, and have forgotten the time when I was a nobody. (How can I forget?!  But I  do not live in the past. My present is more exciting for me!)

One of the very important lessons that I have learnt is that no matter what you do, how much you succeed, there are always people who are going to not acknowledge that your success is because of your efforts and not because of some random chance. It is futile to seek that from them---they are too bereft to be able to give that to you.

Also, you can never please everybody

But as long as you prioritize and  do what makes you happy,  that is all what matters.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Doon School.A great experience.

I have just got back from The Doon School (see previous post) after giving a talk to the students there.

There is just one word for the school---Splendid. I am now officially a Doon School fan. I had an opportunity to interact closely with the faculty, and the students and I spent a lot of time on the campus. I spotted Vikram Seth's name on the wooden boards outside the Principal's office which have embossed on them, the names of school captains and the editors of the school magazine, throughout the years.(Since 1935 which was when the school was established).  The former prime-minister Rajiv Gandhi too studied in this school. (But his name isn't on the boards outside :) )

It is a myth that the school is 'elitist and western'. I absolutely loved the 'Indianness'  of the school. The students are grounded, intelligent and smart. They asked me great questions. They loved my talk and the interactions, and some of the students told me 'M'am, yours is the best talk we have ever had.'




Here is another picture after the talk:




The local newspaper covered my talk. (It wasn't a creative writing workshop as the headline claims but a talk)



For more photos from the event,  click here


The campus itself is magnificent---set in 70 acres of greenery. They have a separate art school, a music school, an art and design center--all of which are superbly equipped. They also have a very well equipped music school. It reminded me so much of the school in UK that my children used to go to.



This is the view from one of the windows of the art school.



This is the upstairs gallery which has a separate water colour room, acrylic room, a room for fabric painting, a digital art room, potters wheel, sculptures--you name it, they have it. I was really impressed by the work done by the boys.

I had my dinner with the faculty and I loved the bond between the students and the teachers---and how caring and approachable the teachers were.

The school has great emphasis on discipline, traditions and customs. The school aims to be an institute of excellence, dedicated to producing leaders of the future. Their intake is in class 7, through an entrance test, and there are limited seats in class 8.

I  loved the wellness centre of the school, which boasts of a very well equipped modern hospital and also  the pastoral care that the boys received.

The well stocked library spread over two floors  impressed me. (and yes, my books are very popular and well stocked :) ) This is a view of the ground floor.























A day after my return, I am still reveling in the warmth of the welcome that I got, the unmatched hospitality where even the smallest of details was taken care of,  the enthusiasm of the students who interacted with me, the questions they asked and the thunderous applause (and appreciation) that I received for my talk.

 It is easy to see why my mind is still lost in the valley of Dehradun, even though I am physically here.
______________________________________________________________________________
Buy my books in India,  here

(You can pay cash on delivery. You don't need a credit card)
   

Buy my books on Amazon, (outside India)  here

Monday, August 05, 2013

Latest from my end

Amazon India--Indian fiction best-sellers
  



If you click on Amazon India's best-seller list right now (updated hourly) this is what it looks like. :) . 'Life is what you make it' is on Number 4 and 'The Secret Wish list' is on No.13.(a record of sorts as it is the highest it has climbed so far). Needless to say I am thrilled to bits. (If you haven't read them, go get them now!)

Apart from the above, some  nice things have been happening in my life.

The Doon School has invited me for a talk, at their campus. I leave for Dehradun on 7th August.

IIT Kanpur has invited me as  speaker at their E-summit 2013, which is happening  at their campus. I leave for Kanpur on 18th.

I am going to be speaking on 'The secrets of success' at both these talks.

What makes people successful? What exactly is success? Do you really think hard-work is all that is needed to be successful? Or are other skill-sets necessary? Is success determined by the choices we make? Does destiny play a part? What are the qualities one should cultivate in order to be successful?

These are some of the questions I would be addressing.

In case you wish to explore this topic an excellent book that I recommend is

 Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers 

However the talk I would be giving would completely be from my own experiences, not Gladwell's :) After all, looking back, I can pin-point with accuracy, all that has worked for me and how my life and views changed, with each step that I climbed.

That's all from me, for now.
I shall try and post snaps of the very picturesque Dehradun.

Till then-- Keep reading great books, guide your mind to happy thoughts and may you have peace and positivity.

Stay blessed.
______________________________________________________________

Buy my books in India,  here

(You can pay cash on delivery. You don't need a credit card)
   

Buy my books on Amazon, (outside India)  here