Lessons Learned from Childbirth – Part 2

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Lessons Learned from Childbirth

“I could not get my fill of looking. There should be a song for women to sing at this moment or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment.”  Anita DiamantThe Red Tent

Oh! Yes! It was a golden period that lasted for precisely 24 hours for me. I couldn’t get enough of her too. I kept craning my neck to take a glimpse at her. This baby that I created, this pink being with such chubby cheeks that led us to name her ‘Ching Chang Choo’ because she looked Chinese. She lay sleeping for the better part of the day and the night even as relatives, friends, and nurses poured in and out of the room to look at the ‘pink baby’.

Proud and tired, I lay down answering calls and kept saying, “Oh! She is very quiet. She sleeps the whole day. She is the most peaceful baby I have ever seen.”

That’s the first lesson to learn. Never take (these tiny Chinese-looking peaceful) babies for granted.

Hungry, tired or angry (can’t still figure out) she arose not unlike a Chinese dragon and showed the world that she too had a voice. Man! What a voice that was! With her pink face screwed up she turned red and violet with a span of five minutes after she started her kutchery in the dead of the night.

I tried to feed but didn’t have an idea whether she was getting anything out. My mother tried to imitate Bombay Jayashree’s Kanne kanmani song, which would have had me in splits, if I had not been so tired. When the song didn’t work, we tried to feed again when I learned yet another lesson.

I found this quote in Goodreads and completely agree with it – “Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, one of the most beautiful things that exist in nature.”

Breastfeeding is indeed beautiful thing but only after the first month 

(However, what no one tells you even in those Lamaze classes is how painful breastfeeding really is at least for the first month. )

The ‘pink peaceful baby’ now was anything but peaceful and was fiercely attacking my breasts. After about four hours of feeding and groaning (that would ‘me’) I was ready to kill myself for shooting my mouth off. What possessed me to say that she was the ‘most peaceful’ baby of all things?

Thankfully, the brisk professional nurses from the Neo Natal section rescued us and took that ‘bundle of screams’ away.

As days progressed, the peaceful Chinese baby issued different degrees of wails, screams, complaints and baby rhetoric. At the height of her colic episodes, we would play passing the parcel – mom to sister, sister to great grandmother, grandmother to me and then it would continue until the wee hours of the morning. If by some chance the ‘pink baby’ stops crying while in someone’s hand, they had the honour of keeping her for the next one hour, while I gleefully tucked in for at least ten minutes sleep!

And this continued for the next three months, like a never-ending mega episode of a mega serial. It took about five more months for me to get at least an hour’s sleep in the night and yet another year for a bare-minimum of two hours of sleep.

Despite the lack of sleep, the constant depression, and almost permanent sore nipples childbirth was really a fulfilling journey.


If you have missed read the first part of this blog you can click here


Lessons Learned from my Best Friend

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Lessons Learned from best friend

They say Aquarians collect friends of all shapes and sizes. But that bit of astrology didn’t work in my case because I had no close friends all through my school.

I noticed her on the first day of college. Spectacled and serious, she was collecting the names of all the new entrants to the class, as she was the class monitor. The first thing that I noticed about Thangam was her voice – deep and reassuring.

I was then shy and socially awkward while she was outgoing and popular. But we became friends nonetheless. We would sit for hours after college discussing books and characters that we have admired and loved and time would speed away. For the first time in my life, I had a friend who would understand why I had a massive crush on Mr. Darcy or why I admired Jane Eyre.

After college she went on to do her MBA while I pursued Journalism and Mass communication but we stayed in touch despite distance and gruelling schedules. When she moved to Dubai after marriage and I made my home in Chennai, we stayed in touch through emails and hurried phone calls and met each other whenever she came to the country. She is my best and the worst critic ever and these are the lessons that I have learnt from her.

Resilience in the face of storm: Thangam is the most resilient person I have ever known. She has battled many weird health problems, numerous operations, and emotional turmoil to stand forth brave and unflinching in the face of pain and agony.

Brutally honest: She is brutally honest about everything. Right from the state of my hair to the first draft of my novel, her feedback was always straightforward (with many choicest swear words that I wouldn’t repeat here.).

Go get it attitude: One could learn many lessons from her about how to achieve anything that you want. She juggled many roles as an entrepreneur, a mother, wife and as a amateur poet quite successfully. All through this journey she had only one mantra to pull her through – ‘I can do it if I put my mind to it.’

Be there when you are needed: A very important lesson that I have learned from her through example. She was always there for me as a sounding board for decisions, as an anchor to pull me through storms and as a friend who would listen to anything that I had to say be it complaints about Raks’ naughty behaviour or weighty things like the plot of my next novel. She is there whenever I need her.

Today is her birthday and even as I write this I get a message from her husband reminding me to call her and wish. So here is a tribute for you Thangam. Have a fantastic fun-filled day and a great year!

Lessons Learned from Diwali

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Lessons Learned from Diwali

We all know about Diwali. It is synonymous with shopping, crackers, sweets and basically having a festive time around. But there are many valuable lessons that many have learnt from it. We asked around many people the following question –

“What’s the one thing you have learned not to do on Diwali?”

and these were the answers –

“I have learned never to try and burst a rocket or any cracker for that matter by holding it in hand. And another hard lesson was trying to explain to my parents as to how the showcase windows broke when I experimented with bursting crackers indoors.” K.S. Manikandan, Film maker

“One thing that I never to do on Diwali is probably shopping. That’s because you are tempted to buy stuff that you don’t want or need. I would rather donate that amount for a good cause and help someone else. Diwali for us Indians has become like Chrtistmas in the Western world. It should be family time. Instead people are more interested in what gifts they get and what offers are around.” Sid Balachandran, Blogger and Author

“I have learnt not to sit at home watching TV. That’s because it is mostly pointless with crackers bursting. I would rather visit a temple or go away some place.” Yamini Vijendran, Author, Blogger and Freelance Writer

“I have learnt not to burst crackers. I would rather take a few street kids for dinner.” Rubina Ramesh, Author and Blogger.

“My family and I have learnt not to burst crackers on Diwali.” Sundari Venketraman, Author and Blogger

It’s been about 13 years, since I bought or burst crackers. Firstly, I’m an ardent animal-lover and can’t understand why animals have to be traumatised. When I love them so much, it’s just natural for me to restrain from bursting crackers. Calvin, my 11 year old pet dog, wouldn’t eat for about five days during Deepavali. And wouldn’t come out for walks. Ensconced under the sofa/bed, my canine-friend would literally die of sounds. I reckon, however clichéd it sounds, it is a festival of lights. And we must stick to that fact.” Deepika Ramesh, Journalist and Animal Lover

“I have learnt never to be careless around crackers. Burnt myself once and seen Dad being hurt very badly once. Another thing I have learnt is not to drive unnecessarily as there is bound to be crazy traffic on the days leading to Diwali. If you have to go, leave three hours before the designated time!” Parul Tyagi, Author and Blogger

“I have learnt not to overeat sweets. (To tell the truth, my family hides it from me)” Venketesh Ramakrishnan, Author

“Definitely clothes …. Don’t remember the year …two of my sisters in law and myself had a common tailor Blouses were given for stitching and all three of us were threatening the tailor to stitch and give it on time. The fun part was without the knowledge of others , I asked him to get mine done first ….and they followed suit. In the end, he did not stitch any of our blouses. Reason – no time But the real reason was he lost my elder sister in law’s measurement blouse and got very scared. He hid all our blouses and gave it back ten days after Diwali. I learned to buy readymade blouses for Diwali from then on…” Usha Seshadri, Avid Reader

“I have learnt not to burst crackers. I mean I loved crackers as a kid but eventually got put off by the pollution and the littered streets the next morning, which no one bothers to clean up.” Shuchi Singh Kalra, Author, Blogger and Freelance Writer

“My children showed me how animals and plants get disturbed when we burst crackers. My wife showed me satellite pictures of India on Deepavali day. I have given up bursting crackers for over a decade now.” Krish Murali Eswar, Vaastu Expert and Mentor

“I have learnt not to splurge money on crackers. They create unwanted noise and burn a hole in the pocket (pun intended).” Abhinav Sethi, Author, Blogger and Freelance Writer

“Revisit old wounds hah ahhahaha. Seriously I would say do not over indulge on sweets and gossip. My family donates equal money to charity that we spend on clothes eat and lights It’s our way of showing gratitude for all that we have.” Radha Srinivasan, Entrepreneur and Avid Reader

I don’t believe in buying crackers for diwali. I personally believe that the money can be spent in some way to make the poor happy 2.bursting crackers can create accidents. My personal decision alone won’t make much impact, but I believe that’s a small step towards the society. Rajalingam Manickavasan, Digital Marketing Consultant & Founder- Toss Digiconsult

If you have more lessons to add, please post a comment with your lesson and share it with your friends and followers. Have a happy, joyful and a safe Diwali from the Lessons Learned Team

Lessons Learned from R.K. Narayan’s English Teacher


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Lessons Learned from R.K Narayan’s English Teacher

I read R.K. Narayan’s English Teacher almost 15 years ago as a part of my college syllabus. English Teacher was supposed to be the autobiographical account of Narayan’s struggle to come to terms with the death of wife, Rajam. And that’s probably why it had such a profound impact on me. And on the 108th birthday of this iconic author let me list out the lessons I have learned –

Keep it Simple – One of the first things that strikes you about Narayan’s writing is that you don’t have to reach out to Google or the dictionary to check his vocabulary. Simple words coined in simple sentences can aptly do the job of narrating your story. Even profound philosophies about life can be described beautifully using simple language. This was one of the most useful lessons that I learned from English Teacher.

“I returned from the village. The house seemed unbearably dull. But I bore it. “There is no escape from loneliness and separation….” I told myself often. “Wife, child, brothers, parents, friends…. We come together only to go apart again. It is one continuous movement. They move away from us as we move away from them. The law of life can’t be avoided. The law comes into operation the moment we detach ourselves from our mother’s womb. All struggle and misery in life is due to our attempt to arrest this law or get away from it or in allowing ourselves to be hurt by it. The fact must be recognized. A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life. All else is false.

Understated humour – Humour is a classic prop that Narayan uses in all his novels. His humour is often understated and tongue-in-cheek which works well in all his plots. English Teacher too had many such moments where Krishna the protagonist fails to prepare for his class and ends up using attendance as an excuse to while away the time and the headmaster of the nursery school confessing to him about why it takes a long time for him to come out of bathroom. Narayan’s art of weaving in humour with many slice of life moments is a lesson that many writers can learn.

Discovering yourself – English Teacher on the outset could be classified as a tragic love story of a college professor, Krishna who falls in love with his wife, only to lose her tragically to Typhoid. But it is certainly much more than that. Krishna’s dissatisfaction with his life and work and the loneliness he feels after Susheela’s death leads him towards a new path. In the end, he finds a way to connect with his dead wife and discovers the joy that one derives only out of doing something that they really like. Krishna finds joy in teaching little kids rather than trying to explain Southey’s poetry to unappreciative students in college.

This was one of the most important lessons that we can learn from this book. There is indeed no greater joy than working on something that you enjoy.

Lessons Learned from Mahatma Gandhi

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Lessons Learned from Gandhiji

Mahatma Gandhi needs no introduction. His life, struggle and triumph has given us democratic governance, economic freedom and an identity on the world’s stage. He was an extraordinary man with simple tastes and firm beliefs. With just the power of his personality, charm and dreams, he became a force to be reckoned with. His life is a legacy that can teach us innumerable lessons. Here are a few lessons that these people have learned from him –

Krish Murali Eshwar, Vaastu Expert, Mentor and Innovator 

No matter how many times you fail, your faith in your vision and the courage to work hard at your vision every waking minute of your life will ultimately make you succeed.

Venketesh Ramakrishnan, Novelist

Gandhi was an innovator. He was always trying out new methods in politics just as an inventor would in science. His inventions have inspired mankind to achieve what was often considered impossible

Devika Fernando, Novelist

This is what I learned from Gandhi – Act like a nobleman but live like a pauper

Mohan Visu, Marketing

Self-belief – this is the first and foremost lesson he has taught me. I am named after him as Mohan by my dad. (his full name is mohandas karamchand ghandhi). The sad part is, I dislike him and differ from his ideology. Still, hats of to this immortal man.

Sundari Venkatraman, Novelist

“Be the change that you want to see in this world” said Mahathma Gandhi. I truly believe in this quote and follow this maxim in my life

Raja King, Business Analyst

“Eat simple food” This is the simple thing I learned from Gandhi. I love non vegetarian food and eat at least three times in a week. After reading about Gandhi I stopped and became a Vegan. And I started eating simply and moderately. Thanks to Gandhi ji

Rubina Ramesh, Writer and Blogger

One lesson close to my heart is no one is your enemy. Your view may vary. If you can win a person with love so be it or else carry only the happy thoughts of that person and move on. Both for your sake and hers or his.

Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Writer, Editor and Book Reviewer

Lessons learned from Gandhi ji… 1. Truth is the best way to speak but being polite while telling the truth is even better. 2. Be satisfied and appreciate what you have, big or small is important as some people don’t have anything. 3. Material possessions do not always make you happy. Letting go is the best thing to do at times.

Sridevi Datta, Writer and Blogger

From Gandhiji, I learnt the insurmountable strength of truth and peace and how they can usher in freedom at both the micro and macro levels both for self and the Nation because one cannot be envisioned without the other.

Afroz Alam Sahil, RTI Journalist

Today when the world is passing through a very critical stage, people are looking back to Gandhi and resorting to Gandhian means to find out solutions to the modern and complicated problems.

This establishes the utility of his means and methods and makes him relevant even today. Fortunately, Gandhi’s work-place Champarn is my hometown. During my school days, I used to spend some time under the shadow of Gandhi’s big statue. I’ve been inspired by Gandhi to do Satyagarha against the atrocities being committed on the people of India in India.

I have seen all the Ashrams that are neglected presently and are in a fragile state. Gandhi has been at the centre stage of most of our (my) writings. I had made a small documentary “Journey of Champaran” on Gandhi while being in College. During that period I got the chance of being close to Nirmala Deshpande and Shobhakant Jha. Nirmala Deshpande introduced me to the behavioural aspect of Gandhi. She was very fond of me. At present, I’m working on a book on Gandhi’s Satyagraha in Champaran.

I am also reminded of my father who died on this day, four years ago. A believer of Gandhian ethics, he told me that non-violence and peace are the fundamental principles behind the sustenance of human civilisation. My struggle as an RTI activist draws inspiration from both the Mahatma and my Abbu.

Sonia Rao, Writer

“You don’t need to use violence to get what you want. Unceasing persistence, unflinching faith in yourself and unwavering belief in your goal will get you what you want.”

Janaki Nagaraj, Blogger, Book Reviewer and Writer

The three monkeys of Gandhi which says- see no evil, hear no evil and talk no evil.
Today, even though we don’t want to we are exposed to the evils. My mantra is not to remain quiet after seeing them but to do something about them…if not in a big way, a small way in which I feel that I am the change that I want to see in the world.

Ruchira Khanna, Blogger, Book Review and Writer

I stand by the motto that violence/anger can never be the key to resolve a situation. It is very easy to point fingers at someone who failed at a task, but gotta look at his credentials cause we have yet to achieve many of those.

Lessons Learned from Journalism

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Lessons Learned from Journalism

Bikash C. Paul has been a Journalist for many leading media brands in India including top channels like NDTV, ETV, News X and Times Now. Starting his career in mass media as a Reporter twenty-two years ago he gradually moved to back room news operation, shaping up agenda of top English channels in the country. As one of the top journalists in the current media scene, he has seen many phenomenal stories taking shape and has worked on many important national scoops. An expert in content management and news analysis, Bikash has many valuable lessons to share about media and journalism.

You have had a long association with media as a journalist and as an editor. Please share the lessons you have learned from this profession.

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Bikash C. Paul

The greatest learning experience has been, of course, to see, feel and understand the evolution of Indian media through these two decades. It’s mind-boggling to learn the changing complexion of Indian media….its emergence from the shadow of traditional print and wire to TV, on-line and convergence. It’s fascinating to observe how the media has been shaped up infusing fresh outlook in content generation and its presentation; it’s interesting to find how a whole new generation of editors dared to challenge the status quo, exploring uncharted areas in journalism. Undoubtedly, it has been an enriching experience to be an active participant of every ups and downs of this roller-coaster journey.

No other country in the world has so many varied hues of journalism….it has a robust regional news market catering to the local needs; it has an extremely aggressive Hindi news space which has its own unique way presenting news to the masses; it has a few ‘elite’ English channels that had no other option but to shed its upmarket tag to grab shares from regional and Hindi channels.  As a backroom news manager for the past several years in top TV channels, my job has been to understand, interpret and act to the need of audience. Creation of new forms of storytelling, conceptualizing contemporary content and putting it on air for the audience has been the greatest challenge for me.

On a lighter vein….journalism taught me how to work 24 hours, even sometime without any break. It taught me how to work in a tight deadline skipping many lunches and dinners. It taught me how to miss social gatherings, company of family and friends. It taught me how to sneak into home after midnight year after year. It taught to twist a story to fit the editor’s whims even sometime distorting facts here and there. It taught how to rub shoulder with bigwigs and feel myself too a big shot carrying an inflated ego!

You have a passion for political and economic journalism. What lessons have you learned here?

Governance had been my key area of functioning as a reporter.  With the launch of economic reform in 1991, however, the governance in India changed forever. Politics and economy mixed in such a manner that it brought a paradigm shift in the thinking process of all stakeholders, government officials, political parties and media.The initial era of reforms had taught us to analyze public policies through the prism of political-economy. The understanding is still valid asno political party can ignore the linkages between public policy and economy in today’s globalizing world.

As a journalist, you must have seen thousands of headlines, making news and history. What was the most pivotal moment of your career as a journalist and an editor and the lessons learned from it?

There are many and a few did make their places in the history. Sample these: Babri Masjid demolition that I covered for a leading Pakistani newspaper; coverage of Parliament attack when I myself was holed up in the mess inside; assassination of Nepal’s King Birendra and his family; Indo-Pak Agra summit between Vajpayee and Musharraf just after Kargil War and Advani’s “Bharat Uday Yatra” in the run-up to general elections in 2004.

It had been terribly a daunting task to cover Babri demolition and subsequent riots for Pak media from the epicenter. I was then a ‘Correspondent’ for Pakistan’s leading daily The News International in its Delhi bureau. For me, it was a great challenge to present a factual reporting without sounding biased.  I precisely did that. However, my dispatch used to be grossly changed in the desk in Islamabad. Worth mentioning here the eight-column banner headline on the demolition next day: “Babri Masjid reduced to rubble in ‘secular’ India”!

Terror reared its ugly head in Parliament premises in a calm morning in 2001. The House had a brief adjournment….me and NDTV’s Divya Malik Lahiri along with late Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley were enjoying a few relaxed moments in Mahajan’s chamber. Suddenly we heard gunshots and all rushed to the lobby. We found frantic activity in the lobby with Parliament security personnel, SPG running helter-skelter. We were told “terror strikes Indian Parliament”and the rest was all history! The next few hours were literally a face to face encounter with death.

The assassination of king Birendra and nine others in the royal family of Nepal was the bloodiest mass murders of royals in recent history. On a Saturday morning, Nepal woke up to unbelievable news of the massacre that decimated an entire line of the Shah dynasty that had ruled the Himalayan Kingdom for 233 years.The nation refused to accept that King Birendra (who was not only a royal figurehead but also revered as the living incarnation of Vishnu) was murdered by his own son Prince Dipendra. “Shocking” must be an understatement, Nepal exploded in utter frustration, confusion and overwhelming grief and anger. Conspiracy theories abounded and the simmering rage below the surface turned violent in major towns with spontaneous outbursts demanding the death of ‘real murderers’. The streets turned to battlefields with burning tires, stones, overturned cars, uprooted trees, attacks on Indian journalists and direct clashes with security forces, killing many. It was the time of hardcore reporting, sometimes even defying curfews till midnight.

The 7-km-long funeral procession–from the Army Hospital to the crematorium on the bank of Bagmati river–was a very public farewell! Disconcerting, painful and a terribly emotive journey! It seemed as though the entire population of Nepal had lined up shoulder to shoulder to bid farewell to their beloved royal family. People armed with bouquets and prayer scarfs wailed in grief…flowerers rained down from every nook and corner on the way. As the flames leapt higher and higher engulfing the bodies….it started drizzling. A TV commentator remarked….even the God was crying. I too cried…forgetting the very sense of ‘objectivity’ in journalism.

The Indo-Pak Agra summit took place in the backdrop of simmering uneasiness between the two countries following the Kargil War. While for Atal Behari Vajpayee, the summit was an apt manifestation of his artful diplomacy and statesmanship, for President Pervez Musharraf it was more of a domestic compulsion ensuring his one-upmanship back home. The high-profile summit was surcharged with hype, melodramatic ups and downs and unprecedented media ‘plants’ from both the sides. The most dramatic moment was when India rejected an ‘almost-signed’ joint declaration at the last moment and a frustrated Musharraf terming it as a ‘handiwork of hawks’ in Vajpayee government. Musharraf had to go back empty-handed…but we, the journalists, learned many valuable lessons about political and diplomatic maneuvering that takes place at a summit level.

Advani’s “Bharat Uday Yatra”, spanning across almost 8000 km and 16 states in the run up to 2004 general election,  was another learning experience. I would remember the Yatra for two reasons : (a) How Advani tried to shade his pro-Hindutva image, making a desperate bid to ‘re-position’ himself so that he is acceptable to Muslims. (b) Politicians and journalists alike were sure of NDA’s victory riding the wave of ‘India Shining’ slogan. The overwhelming public response to Advani’s Yatra strengthened our belief of another term for Vajpayee.  But the huge gatherings proved to be deceptive and misleading. We all failed to understand the underlying resentment in public mind. And important lessons learned here was never to take electorates for granted.

You have worked closely with many media stalwarts like Dr. Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami and Jehangir Pocha.  Any notable experience or lessons learned from them?

Of course, Dr Prannoy Roy stands apart…a great soul, a perfect gentleman, a great teacher and most crucially an immense contributor to Indian journalism. I must say Dr Roy is a rare breed, who believes in quality journalism based on facts devoid of sensationalism, right information with lots of social obligation. He taught us that despite the shifting landscape of journalism, the talent, tenacity and passion to do meaningful work is ever-present. “Do that….and you will never be out of place”, Dr Roy once told me.

I have seen very few journalists as inhibition-free as Barkha. As a boss, Barkha was non-interfering and a driving force for quality work. Her tenacity and passion to do something big is quite infectious. I can vividly remember one incident. I was then a Special Correspondent in ETV. Barkha used to report for NDTV. On a chilly afternoon, we all were waiting outside Palam Technical Area in New Delhi as the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was to fly to Kandhahar with four Pak terrorists who were being released in exchange of Indian hostages of IC-814.  While we all wanted to grab the footage of the historic moment, Barkha had a different plan. She wanted to be a part of Jaswant Singh’s entourage to Afghanistan! A relentless persuasion and argument with the MEA officials followed, obviously in vain. But her perseverance to achieve an impossible task was remarkable!

Arnab Goswami is a dreamer. He dreamt of making Times Now number one channel in the country….and he has done so. Arnab’s passion and fierce conviction whatever he does—right or wrong—is unmatched. Arnab bulldozed many age-old concepts in TV journalism….he has narrowed down the differences between English and Hindi channels. His managerial style is of one-upmanship and it broke all set standards inside the newsroom. I was a part of his launch team and worked almost 17-18 hours a day even when the channel was not on-air. In his lexicon, there is nothing called breathing space….he himself does not take it, nor does he give it to anybody. Arnab experiments everyday almost with all stories in its treatment, writing style etc. He takes risks even when he knows that he may be wrong. Arnab inspired me to push my journalism further.

I have lost a mentor, a great story-teller with impeccable English, Jehangir Pocha few weeks back. I worked with him for almost five years…closely. He had nurtured me, polished me and most crucially tolerated me with a sense of great affection and indulgence. His knowledge in business journalism was unmatched in the industry. It was he, who helped me emerge as a news manager with multi-tasking skills…from strategic planning to building great team. Jehangir used to tell me ”Journalism is at a crucial stage. The opportunities are endless given the growing capabilities of digital media. Tap it.”

In your experience what was the best scoop that you worked on and the lessons learned from it?

My national scoop on Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report on defence purchases during Kargil War was damningly critical about the Union Defense Ministry and its Minister George Fernandes, for stonewalling documents from the House body. The revelation created massive row in Parliament day after day, leading to an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Vajpayee Government.

Another national exclusive….how fake stamp scam-fame Abdul Karim Telgi was patronized by the then Karnataka minister Roshan Baig and his brother Rehan Baig. I filed a document-based story that was aired in ETV Kannada as a campaign forcing Roshan to resign from the state ministry and Rehan had to surrender to police following a FIR.

Any lessons that you want to share with wannabe journalists?

I have often encountered many peculiar situations. Many aspiring journalists have come to me for two specific kinds of jobs…reporting and anchoring. Sadly, many seem to have glamour as their main criteria to be in the profession. This is a dangerous trend and I would advice wannabe journalists to get rid of such inhibitions, as journalism is certainly way beyond all this. Explore other avenues and let passion for quality and work be your hallmark.

If you can travel by time, what lessons would you share with your younger self?

I wish I had made less mistakes. I wish I had broken more national scoops with real impact….wish I would have less emotional in professional relationship and most crucially, wish I would have made a balance between my work and family life. Given a chance I would have followed Ratan Tata’s philosophy, “Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok. Bunk few classes, score low in couple of papers, take leave from work, fall in love, fight a little with your spouse…it’s ok. We are people, not programmed devices. Don’t be so serious, enjoy life as it comes.”

Connect with Bikash C. Paul at –

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bikashcpaul

Twitter : https://twitter.com/Bikashjourno

Lessons Learned from Hay Day

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Lessons Learned from Hay Day

Well why not? I never really realized that there were so many lessons to learn from a game like Candy Crush. This led me to reflect and examine yet another game that I really love to play – Hay Day.

When I first started playing this game, I thought that it would be similar to Farmville – one of the first app games that I had played couple of years ago. But Hay Day is not only different but definitely better than Farmville in terms of interface, graphics and unlike Farmville there is a lot of business wisdom that we can learn from this game.

Prioritizing the tasks

One of the first things that you get when you start playing this game is a small piece of land and some crops to grow – Wheat, Corn, Carrot, Soyabean etc. You will learn to rotate the crops, to grow and harvest them and to store them in the Silo. The produce that you grow can be used to make products such as wheat bread, corn bread, carrot cake, cow produce and chicken feed. As you grow the crops in the fields, the first thing you learn here is to balance the produce, allot priorities and take orders that give you maximum profit. You also learn what to store and what not to store in barn and the silo where space is always premium.

Supply and Demand

Hayday teaches us important lessons in supply and demand. When you have truck, boat and personal orders to cater to, you will need to look at the lay of your land and decide how much to grow there and the time that it takes to grow and use the produce to make the products. When the demand for a particular product goes up, you go to the market and buy the product. As you fill in order after order, you have the option of investing more money into farm products such as Jam maker, cake factory, juice maker etc. You also learn to stock up products and ingredients well in advance so that when the boat comes in, you are ready with your stock.

Creating a product

Hay day gives you the space to grow many things in your farm that can be either sold to customers or fellow farmers. As you gain experience, you will notice that certain items like brown sugar, white sugar, syrup, cream, butter are never put on sale as they are the most needed ingredients to make products like cake and cookies. Smart farmers make a profit out of selling these ingredients to others who have desperate boat orders to complete. One of the most important life lesson that any business person can learn here is to always focus on products that have a perennial demand.

Get into the habit of growing things

I have always loved to look at other people’s farms to see how they have arranged the fields, the trees, the barn and other farm buildings and it is amazing to see that people have built all that using just a strip of land that the game gives you at the beginning. This is the most valuable lesson of this game. Grow crops, plants and trees. They will take care of your future prospects.


Lessons learned from Childbirth

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Lessons Learned from Childbirth

‘Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a beach with the waves weaving in’ said the instructor at the Lamaze class but all that I could hear was the suppressed laughter of my husband. The room was dark and there was circle of scented candles in the middle and around it sat us pregnant women with our husbands.

What’s the point of all this was the question that I could see flashing in his face though he did not voice it (which is just as well). So we held hands while the instructor droned on… “Life is a beautiful dance… and now your life is going to change in many ways…. You are going to give birth to a beautiful child who will be dependent on you at all times…”

While she went on about the beautiful dance or life, I could see many husbands checking their phones, while one was trying to upload something remotely through hushed instructions, one of them was drinking coke with a bored look holding his wife’s hand.

“With a child in hand, you cannot have a schedule because the child will decide it henceforth.’ I remember nodding politely to this statement without realizing the importance of the lesson that she was trying to teach us.

She was wrong. I did have a schedule after two months which read like this – Giving milk, putting to sleep, massage, giving bath, milk, sleep, food for me, milk, potty, nappy hunt, vaccine, milk, putting to sleep, trying to put to sleep, trying to sleep unsuccessfully, while the baby is crying her lungs out in my mom’s arms, milk again, potty…

Yeah right what was it that she told, ‘You cannot have a schedule because the child will decide it henceforth’. That’s a lesson and situation that you will have to wrap your head around for a very long time.

“You can stay in control while you give birth if you learn to manage the pain.” She said and then immediately contradicted herself saying, “Actually you will not feel any pain. Just pressure. It’s will be just like period pain.”

“Period pain multiplied a thousand times.” Said an expectant mother who was a mother to a 2-year-old toddler with an incredulous look.

Well at least I was prepared on that front so I religiously followed all the advice and lessons and practiced breathing lessons in front of the mirror while my husband calculated the distance it will take to drive from my mother’s home to the hospital (just like in the movies!)

But life doesn’t turn out as you expect. While my due date came and went without any incident, I waddled around like a whale waiting for those elusive labour pains. Nothing came. Not even a fake pain. I could feel the eyes of my grandmother, mother, sister, husband, neighbour trying to predict and preparing endlessly for that one moment when I would say, “the baby is coming…”

Nope. No labour pains for me. Only C-section informed the doctor. So we set the date, time and hour and went to the hospital in a very un-dramatic fashion much to the disappointment of my husband who had envisioned the scene pretty much like a French Connection car chase.

Now its time for those lessons that were learnt very hard indeed –

  1. Do not wear nail polish. If you do, remove the polish at home with a remover unless you fancy the staff nurse filing and scraping bits of nail polish from your toes and hands as early as 4 AM in the morning.
  2. Nothing is private anymore – those un-waxed legs, weird tattoos (reads sexy), your bowel movements, the size of your breasts, that navel pierce (a moment of insanity by all means)…
  3. You will have stretch marks no matter what that cream says. (I have a good mind to sue that cocoa butter and shea butter cream company! They promised me smooth lines L)
  4. C-section or normal, trust me, the minute they bring that bundle of joy into the room you would make a memory here that would be permanently imprinted in your brains and like a PPT slide, it would play itself at many other moments in life – like when your precious baby says, ‘Mummy! Chill I can take bath on my own’, ‘Mummy! Don’t call me gugu. You are embarrassing me.’
  5. Smiling Jhonson & Jhonson babies looking up at the mother with a divine smile. Oh yeah very nice ad. But in real life, your baby might look at you like ATM (Any time milk).  Baby is crying – give milk. Baby is crying – enough milk. Baby is crying – put her to sleep. Baby is crying – Do not sleep. Baby is crying – milk again.
  6. THE BABY IS SLEEPING! Hurray! Let me go to the parlour and wax those poor legs of mine, let me do some quick shopping for something that fits me. How about that new movie? And even while you are planning a quick trip somewhere really close, that dud of a husband will bang the door BHAM and the baby wakes up and refuses to sleep again. Yes. It happens all the time.

Hold on I am not done here yet. Lessons learned from Childbirth Part 2 to come soon…

Lessons Learned from Heritage Blogging

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Padmapriya Bhaskaran

Padmapriya T S (aka Priya Baskaran) is a Cost and Management Accountant by training, and currently works as Head of Resources for South India in a diplomatic organization in Chennai. She has about twenty years of experience in senior management positions, primarily in the development sector. She is an avid traveller, and blogs about lesser known, unique and ancient heritage sites through her blog Aalayam Kanden which has been listed among the top thirty blogs of India over the last three years. She has been awarded the Rotary Vocational Service Excellence Award for her work with heritage monuments in the year 2013.

When did you start your heritage blogging?

Traveling, especially to unique, lesser known places, has always been my passion. After every trip, I used to post interesting facts and pictures on my Facebook page for the benefit of my friends and relatives. This triggered a lot of interest among them and they encouraged me to write in a more formal manner and that is how it all started four years ago. When I decided to blog, I gave the blog a tamil name ‘Aalayam Kanden’ although I write primarily in English. This was to provide the connect with the motherland. Once the blog became functional the response was overwhelming. Within a year, it crossed over a lakh page views from about 160 countries. This brought with it a sense of responsibility and I started becoming very choosy about what was covered in the blog.

Share the lessons you have learned from temple blogging.

Be clear, concise and correct – Today, lot of people are interested in travelling. They have the desire to visit different places and are backed with technology and financial capacity. Therefore, information given in the right format, accurate and helpful goes a long way in motivating them to travel to different places.

Don’t underestimate your readers – Initially, I had styled my articles like travelogues but the kind of questions raised by the readers, really made me push the bar up on the standards and now I aim to write well researched comprehensive articles, that provide the historical, epigraphical, spiritual and logistic information about a site.

Duplication is not required – There are a number of heritage blog writers, who are all doing a great job. Each one of them has a different style of writing while covering a particular site. However, there is no point in duplicating the efforts already put in by someone else. When readers find more than one article on the same site, most of them would choose to read the one that appears on the top of the page when they do a search. Therefore, as far as possible, I have learnt to write about sites that are not/very minimally featured on the web.

Go back and update articles – Regular readers of the blog are a blessing. They come back to tell you about something they learnt while visiting the site, or a change in telephone number, or the person in charge. I have learnt to verify the content and update the articles on a regular basis.

Stay in touch – Even four years and over five lakh page views later, I still make it a point to respond to comments, phone calls and messages. This develops a connect and builds trust.

You have been visiting and writing about different unknown temples all over India. Share any unforgettable experience with us and the lessons learned from it.

Regarding unforgettable experience, I would like to share about the Hanumantha Raya temple at Ayyangarkulam near Kanchipuram.  This is a very unique temple of Hanuman constructed by Sri Lakshmi Kumara Thatachariyar where Hanuman is the only god in the main shrine and Garuda is found outside the shrine. Usually in Vaishnavite shrines, Lord Vishnu in some form is found in the sanctum sanctorum with Hanuman or Garuda found in the shrine opposite. But finding the Periya and Siriya Thiruvadis across each other, is extremely unique.  After the article was published I got a response from a direct descendant of Shri Thathachariyar from Singapore. She wrote that she had been in search of the temple constructed by her forefather for many years and had not been able to identify it during her previous visits to India. However, after reading my article she said that she felt proud of her lineage and ashamed that she did not have the information in the past to support the temple. Such responses really make me feel satisfied and happy. This is just one of the many responses that I received from people who visit a temple featured in Aalayam Kanden.

Aalayam Kanden Trust has been working towards the preservation of rare and unknown temples in South India. At what point did your temple blogging veer into a preservation exercise that has been bringing about cultural transformation.

When I wrote about temples looking for support or needing urgent repairs and renovations, there were a lot of people who came asking how can I help or why don’t you do something about this. That is when I realised that my work must not stop with just spreading awareness about these lesser known places, but I must take a step ahead to do something wherever I can. When this call became stronger, in about a year after Aalayam Kanden blog was started, we launched Aalayam Kanden Trust with the objectives of spreading awareness about lesser known places of heritage, create, print and publish complete information on heritage sites in English and local language, thereby giving travelers the opportunity to understand the importance and unique features of a place as they visit it, support repair and maintenance of heritage sites, and create a heritage library. This is primarily a family trust at the moment, with my husband providing great encouragement, moral and financial support to the various activities of the trust.

So far we have brought out the Sthalapuranam of three temples – Thiruparkadal Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple in English, Cheyyur Sri Kandaswamy Temple – in Tamil and English and Thirunavalur Sri Bhakthajaneswara Temple in Tamil.

We have also been able to raise funds to support the renovation of Sri Dhatriswara Temple at Sithukadu, Sri Kari Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Nerkundram, Sri Vadavamukhagneeswara Temple at Vedal, and Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar Thirumadam at Thirunavalur.

One of the recent activities we were involved in was to raise funds to creating a deposit to take care of electricity charges for Nellikuppam Sri Kailasanatha Temple. This temple built by Mahendravarma Pallava had remained closed for over forty years due to neglect and paucity of funds. With the effort of the villagers, the renovation is currently going on. There was a need of funds to pay for the monthly electricity charges in the absence of regular patronage of people. So we raised an appeal for people to contribute Rs.200, the interest from which would pay for a day’s electricity charges at current rates. A total amount of Rs.100000 has been raised and placed in fixed deposit since. We have also been donating amplifiers, cameras , inverters etc. to temples .

What are the future plans and projects of Aalayam Kanden?

At the moment one of the exciting things that I am involved in is the cultural mapping of the heritage sites along the Cooum river. This has been one exciting journey, where every day has thrown up new learnings, and new information on the once holy river today considered to be an equivalent of a nauseous cesspool.  When we recently went on a field trip to the origin of the Cooum, we learnt that there were close to forty five ancient heritage sites close to the origin. This really made me delve deeper into the details. I am almost at the end of my desk research and very soon I intend to bring out a book and probably also a documentary on all the heritage sites around the Cooum with an objective of creating awareness about the rich cultural heritage of this holy river and to advocate for its cleaning up so that it regains its lost glory.

The long term project for the Aalayam Kanden Trust is to create a heritage library and resource center. What this would mean, is that any traveller from anywhere in the world, will be able to access information on the history of any heritage site, draw up itineraries,  download maps and share references for free. I have been working on collecting the sthalapuranams of different sites over the last several years, and look forward to setting up this portal soon. I am looking for funding as this would involve infrastructure, technology and running costs.

As a travel blogger, share the lessons you have learned from this venture?

It is almost four years since I started blogging and every day has brought about new learnings and information. I have learnt to not limit myself, trying to control what I can or cannot do and instead surrender to God and let him guide and lead me on what he wants me to do. Saint Manickavasagar said “Avanarulale Avan Thaal Vanangi” which means you can only worship God if he so wills and bestows his grace. This has been and will continue to be my motto as we are all here to do as He wills.

Check out Priya Baskaran’s blog links –

Aalayam Kanden – http://aalayamkanden.blogspot.in/
Aalayam Kanden Trust – http://aalayamkanden.org/



Lessons Learned from Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan

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Lessons Learned from Ponniyin Selvan

They say that good books and great authors can transform lives. I have found it to be true in my case. Ten years ago, a motley group of fans of Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan met online in one of the many Yahoo groups to discuss, ponder and chat. What began as an interesting pastime manifested into a passion that found an outlet through many a medium. Some of us became writers, some became historians, some wrote historical epic novels, some became art connoisseurs, while some took on the ponderous work of deciphering inscriptions. Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan has truly touched many lives and here are the lessons that I have learned from this epic novel.

Learned that I could write too

Ten years ago, when I began to translate Ponniyin Selvan, I had no ambition or a plan to become a writer. For me, this translation project became an outlet to express, to reach out and to indulge in the beautiful world of Cholas that Kalki brought alive and without Ponniyin Selvan, I couldn’t have realized that I could write too.

Learned how to take a plot forward

For an author, Ponniyin Selvan has many valuable lessons to teach. How to develop characters? How to give depth to your characters? How to carry the plot forward? No chapter, sub-story, character or circumstance can be cast-off as useless or irrelevant in this novel. Even the most minor characters have a definite arc and role to play in the overall scheme of things.

Creating unforgettable characters

Why is Ponniyin Selvan still so popular? Undoubtedly because of its memorable characters! Charming Vandiya Devan, intelligent Kundavai, clever Poonguzhali, humorous vaishnavan spy Azhwarkadiyan Nambi and the mysterious Nandini. Nowhere in Tamil literature would you find characters such as these, enticing us back to the book again and again…

What makes epic stories epic?

There are many authors who have written phenomenal books in Tamil literature after Kalki Krishnamurthy but Ponniyin Selvan still remains the most popular book ,widely read by all. Why? If you analyse,  you would learn many interesting lessons. Ponniyin Selvan has the right mixture of all things that makes an epic – political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, huge dollops of romance, betrayed love, seductive passion, alluring women, unrequited love, sacrifice and pure love.

There are still questions that are being debated to this day – Who killed Aditya Karikalan in the end? Was it Nandini or was it Ravi Dasan? Did he commit suicide? Who is Nandini, in truth? Was she Veera Pandyan’s daughter? Who did Nandini truly love – Aditya Karikalan, Veera Pandyan or Vandiya Devan? Who did….

The debate continues to this date…

When Kalki abruptly ended Ponniyin Selvan with the death of Manimegalai, many were literally up in arms. Why would you want to end a novel that employs humour as one of its strong points, with a sad incident?

As far as I could understand, I have learned that this is the very essence of an epic story. Manimegalai dies in Vandiya Devan’s arms and Kalki ends the novel with a note that he would never be the same man again. As a novelist, Kalki astutely gauged his audience’s reaction. After wooing his audience for almost four years with a hero who personified charm, humour and chivalry, he ends the novel saying that Vandiya Devan would henceforth be a sedate calm man sans humour and mirth. That’s exactly why we read the book again and again because we choose live in a world where Vandiya Devan is back on the horse bearing messages and dreaming about beautiful Kundavai. As an author, I feel that this is a brilliant ending for this lovely novel.

I have begun my translation exercise again after a break of almost ten years and I am sure there will be more lessons to learn during the course of this project but the most important lesson that I have learnt in life is from Vandiya Devan. He taught me to fearlessly go on in life, irrespective of hurdles, accusations and criticism and for that I will be eternally thankful to him and the author.

About Sumeetha

Blogger, author and freelance writer, Sumeetha Manikandan lives in Chennai with her husband and six year old daughter.