Is women entrepreneurship the real need of the hour in India? Yes!

Women Entrepreneurship in India

Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist: While you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!” — Lori Greiner, inventor, QVC host and ‘Shark Tank’ investor.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world – Charles Malik

No country can truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens – Michelle Obama

Every year, November 19 is celebrated as Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. It celebrates the momentous strides made by women all across the world, and reminds us of the collective efforts that must be made to realize the untapped potential and the hidden opportunities. Every venture needs the right ecosystem –  infrastructure, network of mentors and supporters, access to cheap financial resources, great employee base, a target market that has the critical need that your product or service needs. The list is endless. And Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrates those women who have entered (willingly or otherwise!), fought, and succeeded in their respective businesses as entrepreneurs.

Now for a reality check.

Continue Reading

The real reason you need to practice yoga

Yoga from BG

Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in – Anonymous

A mind free from all disturbances is yoga – Patanjali

A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist (JNANI) and greater than the fruitive worker (KARMI). Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi – Shloka 46, Chapter 6, Bhagavad Gita

Yes, everyone does it including our Prime Minister. In fact, yoga is the new black. Everybody talks about it, buys the latest accessories for it, and loudly proclaim that it does wonders for them. And the benefits? They rave over their new-found flexibility, the decrease in back pain, the increased energy, the insights into the workings of their bodies….the list is endless.

Immersed in all these loud claims and endorsements, I think we are forgetting the real reason  why we should practice yoga. To become a yogi.

Continue Reading

Kenya, Nairobi and Masai Mara – a primal ride you will never forget

The Masai Village - heart warming welcome

Fresh off the amazing scenery at Cape Town, we boarded the flight to Nairobi, with a stop at Livingstone. As soon as we got on board, we started pestering the air hostesses with requests to fly over the Victoria Falls either before landing or taking off at Livingstone. Finally, the air hostess graciously agreed to relay our pleas to the Captain and when we took off from Livingstone, the plane headed straight for the Falls.

From thousands of feet up in the air, the falls looked massive. So one can only imagine the sight on the ground. The pilot was sweet enough to take u-turns a couple of times so that passengers on either side of the plan got a fantastic view of the Falls, also called Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke That Thunders. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls is twice the height of the Niagara falls and twice as wide as the Canadian falls. So in terms of sheer length and width, it is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Phew!

We landed at Nairobi close to 11 PM and headed straight to the hotel. Early next day, we were leaving for Masai Mara.

Continue Reading

Cape Town, South Africa – all that glitters?

View from my hotel window

Cape Town, South Africa! My husband and I signed up for the TiE Global Charter Member Retreat the moment we heard that they were organizing it in South Africa this year. We have never been to the dark continent, and knowing that we were going to visit the very same place Vasco Da Gama set his foot in 1497 was enough reason by itself to sign up. After all, he next set foot (allegorically speaking!) in our own Kozhikode nearly six months later.

So here is a day by day recount of our trip:

Continue Reading

Malayalam Movie Review – Mammootty’s The Great Father

The-great-Father-Mammootty

How many of you remember this amazing actor in “Nirakkoottu”, a Malayalam movie starring Mammootty, released in 1985? As the avenging angel who escapes from jail to kill the person responsible for his wife’s death? How many of you remember also the amazing acting displayed by Mammootty in his role as a convict? In every scene he appears, he takes us on a roller-coaster of emotions, and finally when he kills the villain, we heave a huge sigh of relief and go home happy, and convinced, that justice has been served.

Is this review about “The Great Father” or what?

And then there is “The Great Father”. A father who loves his only child. A father who suffers incredibly when he finds her raped and left for dead in the elevator of their apartment. A father who promises to find justice for his daughter. Perfect premise, perfect beginning and the perfect story line in today’s world.

Continue Reading

Four reasons why visiting the Kochi-Muziris Biennale should be on your bucket list

At the Kochi Biennale

Fact: My first ever visit to the Kochi Biennale was on March 23, 2016 – just a week before it winds down. I am ashamed that I have not visited one of Kochi’s most potent attractions (not just in India, but around the world). Not once, but missed it twice, and the third time around when I visited it? I barely made it a week before it closes. But now that I have, here goes why you should too.

Continue Reading

Book Review – Samhita Arni’s The Missing Queen

The Missing Queen by Samhita Arni

All of us grew up hearing about the story of Rama and Sita. And if you have not heard it as a child, you now see it on TV. And read about it. As Ashok Banker himself puts it in his review of The Missing Queen, “Of late, a jungle of mythological retelling seems to have sprouted on Indian bookshelves.”

So is The Missing Queen any different from the usual retelling/reinterpretation of the classics or the itihasas? Ever since I read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakurani that retells the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view (a must-read, in my opinion), it has been tough to equate any other retelling that has that impact, relevance and a glimpse into what could have been. Samhita Arni’s The Missing Queen comes close. But just.

First, the basic details:

Book: The Missing Queen

Author: Samhita Arni

Publisher: Penguin/Viking

Price: Rs 399 (Hardcover)

Pages: 179

Summary:

Ayodhya is shining. Trade is booming, the citizens are prosperous, immigrants are plenty to do the menial jobs, and the media adores the ruling family – Suryavamshi Rama. However, the black cloud that looms over Ayodhya? The ban imposed on the media and the citizens on all things concerned with the missing queen, Sita. The protagonist in the story is a journalist who is drawn to this missing piece in what is marketed as a model kingdom. The “Washerman” is the chief of the secret police in Ayodhya and is said to be “hawk-like” in ensuring that no person lets slip the question – “But where is Sita?”

The journalist does ask the question. To King Rama. On live television. As the camera zooms into his shocked face, the Washerman starts the witch hunt. The editor suspends the journalist, the secret police arrests her and throws her in jail, and the twist comes when her cell mate is none other than the “terrorist bomber” from LLF (Lanka Liberation Front) who tried to kill King Rama on the 10th anniversary of his vanquishing King Ravana, but is captured instead. The LLF stage a storming of the prison and in the confusion that results, the journalist escapes with the terrorist and goes with her to Lanka.

The journalist now gets the opportunity to hear the Lankan’s version of Ayodhya’s crowning moment – the conquest of Lanka. The rape, pillage and the barbaric killing of its citizens by the vanar sena even after King Ravana is killed on the battlefield comes as a shock to her (and to the readers). Leaving Lanka, the journalist now heads to Mithila and then the ashram of Valmiki (Ayodhya’s most prolific historian and the king’s authorized biographer) and finally sees Sita – tired, shoddy, aged, but with two handsome and brave sons. The story now roars quickly into its standard ending – the sons are with the king, and Sita sinks into the earth (apparently) and vanishes without a trace. Or so we are led to believe, until the last chapter.

So what’s the verdict?

While it is unfair to consciously or unconsciously compare a book to another one in the same genre (in this case with the Palace of Illusions), The Missing Queen does slip on the most vital question it asks – what really happened to Queen Sita? In the Palace of Illusions, there is no question left in our mind as Draupadi lays bare the palace intrigue and her personal dilemma and feelings. In The Missing Queen, we get a line here or a hint there on what could have happened. Very frustrating.

While the story is beautifully and imaginatively constructed, with ingenious twists and turns, in the end it still fails to convince the readers as to why Sita had to leave Ayodhya. While we get insights into the fate of women in Ayodhya (as compared to the egalitarian regime in Lanka where women are treated as equal citizens), and interviews with Kaikeyi and Urmila confirm that the queens in Ayodhya are no less than second-class citizens, I would have liked a more compelling theory as to why she went missing. Not rumours, not imagined conversations, not gossip – but a plain theory that explains.

However! But! Nevertheless!

I read it twice. Because Samhita Arni is simply a great writer. And even with the numerous retellings of the Ramayana from multiple points of view (I have read Urmila’s POV via Sita’s Sister by Kavita Kane, and Ravana’s POV via Asura by Anand Neelakantan), Arni does present a very compelling and readable book that reveals a version that potentially could have happened.

My review?

4.0 out of 5 (5 is reserved for The Palace of Illusions!)

So go ahead and read it and let me know your feedback.

Continue Reading

Yoga vacation at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyardam, Kerala – all you need to know!

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyar Dam

Yoga vacation. The phrase conjures up visions of serene settings, enlightened devotees, and peaceful yoga practitioners. You get all these and more during a yoga vacation at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram at Neyyar Dam, near Thiruvananthapuram (aka Trivandrum – the state capital of Kerala).

I have been to the Sivananda ashram at Neyyar Dam three times over the last 2 years for a yoga vacation. I have usually stayed at an average of 4-5 nights during each of my visits. While I have joked about my experience there in a previous blog, these vacations have been an immense grounding experience in our life. During our first visit, Mukund and I had no clue what to expect. But by the third visit, we quickly and easily slipped into the ashram schedule, even though it was a year since our previous visit.

Here are a list of things you need to know about visiting the Sivananda Ashram at Neyyar Dam for a yoga vacation.  

Continue Reading

Three reasons why you should read the Srimad Bhagavatham

Krishna quote from ISKCON Desire Tree

If you are reading this blog, then you already know what the Srimad Bhagavatham is. Maybe you have read it already, or planning to read based on what you have heard about it. If Srimad Bhagavatham (SB) is on your bucket list of books to read, then this blog is for you.

Five years ago, all I knew about SB was that it contained a treasure trove of stories about Krishna. I purchased ISKCON’s SB, with A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s commentaries – 18 volumes in all. It stayed on my book shelf in my bedroom, and gathered dust as days went by. On January 15, 2016, I removed the clingwrap on the first Canto, sat down with a book and pen, and my life has not been the same since.

12 months later, I finished the last shloka in Canto 10 (saved the best for the last, as Canto 10 relates exclusively the stories of Lord Krishna!) It is simply impossible for me to explain in words the subtle transformation that happened as I read SB. But before I try and explain why you should read it, here is a quick summary based on my research notes.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 7