This December the 12th my wife Anuja and I will be married a decade. It seems like a lifetime together, and I mean that in the most positive sense. I’d like to think that the times, good and bad, that she and I have endured, have made us stronger, closer, wiser.
The reason I write this post is not to paint some fantastical, Utopian image of marriage. Quite the contrary. It is to share that, like any relationship, wedlock most of all, needs tireless work, effort, and patience. The fact of the matter is that every individual is intrinsically unique and different from the next; for two people to cohabit is in itself a tall ask. Then if those two people happen to be man and wife, things get trickier still.
Love, the way one came into it, the way one experienced it at the beginning, the way one perceived it and defined it, changes. It changes dramatically. There comes a point in every relationship when the inexplicable romantic-rush mellows, the madness lessens, and a new status quo is established. One isn’t necessarily with one’s partner for the feverish, weak-kneed whirlwind one experienced initially. It really comes down to companionship. Friendship.
Of course in our case, the scales are heavily tilted in favour of Anuja being the overwhelmingly resilient one. Having said that, really speaking, there are just two or three factors that make a marriage stand the test of time – Mutual Respect, Friendship and Shared Life Goals.
If there is genuine respect for each other, for one’s work, ethics, principals, and an understanding of why the person is the way he/she is; chances are that the relationship will beat the odds. I think both Anuja and I respect one another for our good qualities deeply. I also feel that we recognise one another’s shortcomings at a very real level but understand and appreciate that as human beings we are bound to have limitations, and that these limitations aren’t a reflection of who we really are. In fact, it is our better traits that are emblematic of our true characters; the individuals we have grown into, despite our circumstances (past and present).
Friendship I’d reckon is at the very top of this list. We absolutely LOVE hanging out with each other and I can safely say that there’s nobody else either would rather be with. We can make each other laugh. We share a cultural context. We speak the same ‘language’. People talk in a derogatory light about the ‘friend-zone’ – I happen to think that if one is friends with one’s life-partner, there couldn’t possibly be a better scenario!
Finally, and both Anuja and I have said this often – the whole ‘opposites attract’ paradigm is terribly overrated. It certainly doesn’t work in the long run. Two people who decide to spend their lives together must have a shared basis for doing that. Certain key philosophies, opinions, outlooks have to match. How to bring up one’s child.. What the couple wants ultimately from life.. Some vital shared interests. These are absolutely crucial to the longevity of a marriage.
As we inch closer to turning 10, I can confess that the lead-up to this monumental milestone has not been easy. Its been tough for me psychologically due to various (non-marriage related) reasons, and by consequence, for Anuja, who has had to endure a less-than-ideal, perhaps ‘absent’ partner in me. Having said that, this, like any other rough-patch, is a temporary, passing phase. What really matters, the things that really count, the truths that ought to be constants, still remain, very much alive. And I’m extremely excited by the prospect of what the next decade holds for us!
We live in a complex, competitive world. A world where it has become immensely difficult to be noticed, and to stand out. For an entire generation of young students in senior school, busy preparing for their exams, applying to colleges, and charting out the future course of their lives; it is imperative that they find a way of distinguishing themselves from their peers. But how do they do that? Especially when a vast number of their contemporaries have similar or better grades meaning they are as academically accomplished; they have more compelling sporting and co-curricular accolades!
Really, the ONLY way then, is a student coming across as Confident. In his or her Public Presentation, that individual is able to create an impression of a Self Assured, Well Spoken, Aware, Driven, Sensitive, and Confident person. This ALONE, can be the difference between imminent success and abject failure. In today’s working-world, be it in one’s own business/work or in the professional realm; young candidates MUST come across as CONVINCING. Their Outward Personalities must neither contradict, nor fall short of their on-paper records. They must PROJECT & EXUDE Polish.
This plain yet vital truth is something I have been trying to make students as well as parents aware of through the past half-decade I’ve been teaching. The ABSOLUTE non-negotiable importance of a student cutting a first rate Public Persona & Image. And I am pleased to share that a many parents have seen sense and logic in my campaign and entrusted their wards to my care and tutelage – a responsibility I take extremely seriously. The results are plain to see in the form of many testimonials from my students on my website and my other social media platforms.
Very shortly, I will be able to announce a round-the-year Program where High School Students will have a chance to interact with me in Batches over the Weekends where I will focus on making them Effective & Confident Communicators – both in terms of Written as well as Spoken/Verbal/Oral Communication that will groom and prepare them to take on a slew of real-world (public) situations where they will need to present the best possible versions of themselves.
Through several activities and exercises including and not limited to Speech-Making, Interviewing Skills, Conversation-Making; the idea of this continuing-workshop will be to make students understand the importance of Public Image and give them the TOOLS to present themselves like WINNERS.
The world is a superficial place. There is no point brushing that under the rug. And in order to compete and succeed, it is NOT enough for students to achieve, just on-paper. They must come across, as such. As Confident Achievers.
In an age where millions of people and products are vying for our attention, it has become imperative for an individual to STAND OUT. And one of the few ways of doing that, is to fashion ourselves as individual Brands. Brands that communicate strategically differentiated and aspirational values that find a collective audience.
Be it a young person in college who is at the cusp of professional life, a doctor who is well into his practise, or even an established senior artist who is well regarded; NO ONE can escape the immense advantages of proliferating an image that speaks to the individual’s core target audience. A brand that stands tall before the product or service that the person espouses. A unique image that needs to be thought of, cultivated, and communicated as such.
The most ready example I can use is myself. Until five years back, NOBODY knew I even existed. Despite having worked in the Media Industry for over a decade, aside from my family and a few friends (personal and professional), no one was aware of anything about me – not my background, my current work, my future plans, my passions, my interests. I decided to address this situation. Of course in my case, form followed function. I was relocating to my hometown after twenty years. I was (for all intents and purposes) shifting careers (in my mid 30s). All I knew was that I wanted to continue to write (though not for television) and I wanted to teach (something I’d never done before). Risky? You bet. Impossible? Absolutely not. BUT. I had to be known. People in this ‘new’ city had to become familiar with me. For any person, organization or institution to take me seriously, they had to TRUST that I was a legitimate professional with a robust academic and professional background and future plans that were well thought out and serious.
This, at an individual level, could not possibly be done through traditional advertising. It had to be, an ONLINE BRAND. I had to market myself, effectively, on the internet, and on Social Media.
Today I am happy to share that in large part, the Writing Assignments I get, the Columns I Write, and the Students I have (at workshops, institutes and at home), are due to the Brand that I have built, online. Mine is the perfect case-study about the power of an online Self-Branding Exercise. In this blog, I wanted to share the basic WHY. The reason that necessitated this exercise in the first place. In my follow-up post, I will share the few key steps I took in order to come to a Brand Image for myself. So until then, do seriously think about creating an online Branded Persona for yourselves. All the best!
Interviews give us a glimpse into a person, the person’s thinking, their world-view and their opinions on important matters. They are one of our most human, real, and interactive ways of getting to know someone. Interviewing someone is a skill that requires tact and knowledge. It is a vital skill that is equally handy for school and college students, as it is for more grown up people.
Be it a ‘celebrity’ a student needs to interview on a school visit for a school-paper or publication, or a working professional is to interview a visiting dignitary to the office, or moderate an event/conference; the rules and basic requirements to conduct an effective interview stay by-and-large, the same. Here I’d like to share my top 5 tips to conduct a great interview.
We seek interviews because we want a peek into the minds and hearts of well-known individuals who might just share insights that enlighten us. Because we expect them to open-up to us, we must in-turn treat them with the respect of being well-prepared, and well-mannered.
Aside from conducting specific workshops in Fiction & Non Fiction Writing, I also see students at my home. These students range from kids in Junior School through till College. What do they come to me for? A vast majority of my home-students come for a mix of things as part of a student-specific program that adds up to overall confidence building. The program, that I try tailor-make to each individual student’s requirements and unique personalities, contains some common elements; however the focus and the way the program is structured, varies from student to student. It is an amalgam of Writing (business communication), Public Speaking, some basic Body Language, Etiquette and Manner, and a host of exercises that endow students with vital Soft-Skills that come in handy through their Professional as well as Personal Lives.
Because Parents and Students often don’t understand at the outset what exactly I teach, I am sharing a typical Lesson Plan of mine which is as follows:
|POWER to CONVINCE||Email Writing
Discussions of Various Scenarios
|POWER to CONVINCE||Proposal Writing||1|
|POWER to PRESENT
|POWER to ANALYZE||Review Writing
Identification of ‘Aspects’
|POWER to PRESENT||SOP Writing
Building a Story
Tips & Tricks
Apps & Resources
Power of Listening
Power of Appreciating Opinions
|Group Discussions on Several Topics||2|
|BODY LANGUAGE||Sitting, Standing, Talking, Gestures, Dressing||1|
|INTERVIEWS||How to take an Interview
|Table Etiquette|| How to sit at a dinner table
How to use one’s cutlery
How to cut and eat food
How to ask for something
How to conclude the meal
How to use the napkin
|Leadership, Management||Organize yourself
|COMMUNICATING an IDEA
(combines Analyzing, Convincing, Presentation)
Developing a Brand
Developing an Advertising Campaign
(test Presentation, Clarity of Thought)
|JAM (Just a Minute)
Prepared + Impromptu Debates
|GENERAL CONVERSATION||Dos Donts
|CAREER-DISCUSSION||Another Way of Getting Kids to THINK
|RECAP Last Session||Recap/Questions/Doubts etc||1|
Each Student is different but what is common is the absolutely non-negotiable need to come across as Confident, Self-Aware and Articulate individuals in an increasingly competitive world where there is little else except one’s winsome personality to separate one from another. My interaction with students aims to instil in them, through a combination of Writing & Speaking Exercises, the Power To Communicate effectively and confidently.
Two decades after my own Boarding School education finished, I’m still regularly asked – “Should we send our kid to boarding school?” I suppose people feel that I can offer them a unique insight into the world of residential schooling, one that perhaps eludes the vast majority of folks who attended regular day-school. Perhaps they’re right. And then perhaps, it really comes down to common sense.
That a boarding school education can be infinitely enriching. That it can expose a young mind to limitless possibilities of self-discovery. That it can liberate a student from many conscious or unconscious constraints. These are foregone conclusions. Ones that most people are aware of.
Having said all of this, there is one insight I can offer. And that is, that for all the wonderfully exploratory benefits of a boarding school; it is NOT necessary that these will prove to be assets for each and every child. Boarding School is a testing environment. People used to believe that as long as a particular boarding school does not have bullying, it is well and good. But even WITHOUT bullying or ragging, it is STILL a testing environment. It is a space where a child needs to be strong-willed, self-confident, and self-driven. If there is a child who is extremely attached to home, isn’t particularly self-motivated; chances are that the atmosphere a boarding school offers will not sit well with that student. In the best case scenario, that student will go through the motions (years) at school not benefitting at all. The worst case scenario could be much more tragic, with the student developing many complexes and issues, that might become permanently embedded!
So, when it comes time to send you ward to boarding school, it is less the advice of other people, less the reputation of a school, less your own enthusiasm as parents that should determine your choice – and more your own child’s disposition, of which, you should have a clear, objective, un-biased perception and assessment. ONLY if you feel that your son or daughter can ‘handle the pressures’ of a competitive space where one has to work immensely hard to carve out a niche, should you take the plunge.
Like I said at the beginning, while people may be able to present many advantages and disadvantages of a boarding school education, it is for you as a parent, to really judge what you realistically feel your child is best suited to. And if that means sacrificing a boarding-school education to preserve his or her well-being, so be it. It can be a life-altering education but it can unfortunately also be, a scarring one. So THINK hard before you commit your child to it.
I am often asked what the prerequisites to join one of my Writing Workshops are. Truth be told, the requirements to benefit from a Writing Program, long or short, are just three! And they have almost nothing to do with writing or language prowess!
Writing can unlock an infinite landscape of creative expression. It can be liberating, therapeutic, cathartic, and hugely satisfying. Be open, and dive in!
Over the past five years, I have taught at many schools, colleges and institutes. Some have been well known, others start-ups, and still more have been extremely modest places. I have been advised by many people to ‘choose’ the places I teach at, and organisations I associate with, CAREFULLY! Why? Because if I associate with ‘lesser’ institutions, the ‘good’ ones will not want to have me!
THIS, I find preposterous. While I realise that most of this advice comes from well-meaning people, from a place of genuine care and concern; I REFUSE to ‘select’ the places I teach at on any ‘basis’. I reject the notion of ‘strategising’ a career of an Educator. Teachers MUST go where they are needed – no matter the size, stature, status of the organisation. At least that is what I firmly believe. If all good educators ran along to teach at the ‘best’ places, who’d be left to teach elsewhere?
Teaching for me is about trying to reach out to the most number of students. A vital part of that pursuit is to interact with students through a multitude of engagements. This automatically means that instead of being permanently tied down to one institute, I give myself the freedom of ‘visiting’ several institutions, engaging in various ways be it workshops, long-term programs, with entire batches of students, with individuals through one-on-one classes, and even through online teaching. This vast spread of teaching-vehicles allows me to have students who represent a wide range of age, social standing, geography, demography, and inclinations. And that is what keeps my teaching fresh, invigorated, and of course, allows me to reach more people.
Knowledge can only grow when shared. And when you share, you don’t discriminate. If indeed there are people or organisations or schools or colleges that feel I am not to be ‘touched’ because of my prior or ongoing associations with any individual/institute, that’s just too bad for them!
“Education is the foundation upon which we build our future”, and the future belongs, to EVERYONE.
I’d written the following piece as a column of mine in the DNA some time back. I thought it would be quite relevant to share it here on my website now that it is long published. It is an article that points a lens at a possible Identity Crisis we are in. It examines the question, Are We LOST?
Circa 1992. I enter the ‘common room’ in my boarding house at Doon and put a Bhimsen Joshi cassette into the decrepit but still surviving Philips Powerhouse music system. As Jago Mohan Pyare sounds through the speakers the rest of the boys playing TT, carrom, chess, or generally lounging around, cringe. They stare right at me, judging, pronouncing me awfully ‘uncool’. And while that wasn’t all the lads at school, I shamefully admit that it was the majority. That’s when it hit me. As Indians, we are in a phase of ‘identity crisis’.
Why am I talking about it in this column? Because it is a crisis that perhaps manifests most vividly through peoples’ choices in Films, Books and Music. And because I am also an educator who interacts with children across all age groups, I am deeply saddened to share that not only does the crisis continue, it has grown to epidemic proportions! We are just NOT a proud people. We define ourselves mostly through Western Culture. If my generation did not know and watch the popular American sitcom ‘Friends’, we weren’t cool enough. If today’s youth does not know or claim to love shows like ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘Breaking Bad’, its just not going to cut it. Binge watching Netflix is IN, watching wholesome Hrishikesh Mukherjee, OUT!
I am not for a moment pretending or propagating that I am, or that everyone else should be some nationalist prude. What I do certainly feel is that there is a paucity of national pride. Amidst all the noise and sensationalism of patriotism, Hinduism and nationalism that is defined by illogical and banal yardsticks that we all know and I don’t feel the need to delve into; we have genuinely ‘lost’ our Indian-ness.
The films we want to watch, at least urban India, are Hollywood blockbusters. The books we want to read are International Bestsellers rather than Indian books in Indian languages. And the music we want to listen to is ‘Gaga’ instead of a beautiful Raga, or ‘The Weeknd’ instead of Bhimsen!
I wonder what has caused this shift. What is it that makes us so terribly uncool to ourselves, if we subscribe to, and openly admit loving anything culturally Indian? Is it a pilfered morality of an urban elite that now all strata of society feel compelled to adopt? Why can we not strike a healthy balance between ‘Ishqiya’ and ‘i Zombie’, between A Suitable Boy and Confessions of a Shopaholic, between Indian and International?
Countries celebrate, venerate their artists, dedicate tombs and statues to them. And we drive ours away. From painters to musicians, writers and film makers; Indian culturists have sought refuge in the warmth and appreciation of foreign shores for decades. I suspect it is this dichotomous combination of people being too ‘cool’ or too ‘touchy’ for these artists’ expression!
To me, all it reflects is a huge identity crisis, that we must do our utmost to stop, by exposing our children to the myriad of mesmerizing Indian art.