Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy

Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy


Everybody needs heroes. And I’ve needed mine– I just had to wait around to find her, way into my adulthood. Today, I’m talking about her on Daily (w)rite as my contribution to the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest.

Anouradha Bakshi NGO India

Anouradha Bakshi: My Hero from Project Why

Joy Campbell is running the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest today on her blog: Post approximately 300 words about someone who has encouraged or inspired you. Your hero may be a friend, spouse, teacher or writing buddy.

I love my friends, adore my spouse, have tremendous respect for some of my teachers and writing buddies. But the person I want to write about is someone I’ve met for a very short time in real life, but who’s had a huge impact on my way of thinking, my attitude to the world around me.

Her name is Anouradha Bakshi, the founder of Project Why, an organization that works in the slums of New Delhi. Lots of such organizations are doing good work, so what’s special about Anouradha and Project Why?

Project Why works with the slum children and women from within the slums by empowering the slum community. Some of the teachers were once maids, who got an education at the Pwhy, and are now teaching the kids from the slums. Others are helping to manage the project and run it. Yet others work as drivers, who ferry the kids and teachers from one learning center to the other. A Project Why team member’s family helps cook the midday meal for the creche kids. Most of the education given to about a 1000 kids from creche to secondary levels is free, as are the courses on sewing, and other skills for women. One of the schools is literally situated in the middle of a dustbin, because that’s where a majority of the kids who attend it, live.

Visiting this school, as I did this month, is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

All this is supported by donors touched by Anouradha’s way of thinking– “Seeing with the Heart

Where others see a burden in a disabled person (a common sentiment in many parts and social strata in India) she saw God’s own children. The Special Section, which I visited on my recent trip to New Delhi is poorly equipped, but full of love, as is the rest of the Project.

Project Why Kids, Doll Museum New Delhi

Day out with the kids at Project Why at the Doll Museum, New Delhi

Anouradha insists on spending most of the donations received on the kids and the women, finding innovative ways to cut corners on overheads. One of the centers uses a solar panel donated by a businessman introducing their use in India– and the water system is donated by a visiting school.

Tying all this is together is Anouradha’s compassionate yet indomitable spirit: you can’t help but be touched by the smiles she brings on the faces of so many people, with such honesty, kindness, and willingness to move on despite tough circumstances. (Her honesty, and her unwillingness to make a circus of the slum dwellers makes it difficult for her to raise funds– donors sometimes come in with cameras trying to pose the kids of the Special Section for public relations exercises, or to exploit them for publicity.)

Inspired by her, I try to look at the world around me with the eyes of the Heart, to understand, empathize, relate, build community, spread joy, in whatever small way I can. Not that I’ve succeeded, far from it– but I’ve made a start. I’ve been a contributor of sorts for years, and now, I’m trying to help get their social media and online fundraising efforts off the ground.

We need more heroes like Anouradha Bakshi. To my mind, though I can never become the hero she is, maybe I can learn and become a better person each day.

Who are your heroes? How long have you known them? Would you like to join in the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest, or just talk about your heroes in the comments? Would you like to support Anouradha Bakshi in her efforts?

How Self(ie) Obsessed are You?


Writers have an excuse for people -watching. Research, they say.

Today, at the beach with the family, I spotted a thin young man, with his techie camera, floppy hat, long-sleeved, stylish clothing.

I paid him no mind when he took the first selfie. After all, people all across the beach were either jumping in front of someone with a camera, letting out squeals, arms raised in fake ecstasy; or fishing for selfies, waist deep in the lapping waves, selfie-rod held in firm grip, grimacing away. (Notice the women modeling on the rock in some of the pictures.)

But this man’s persistence amazed (amused) me.

He kept trying to take Selfies, with a focus to rival a fishing stork–only he didn’t remain still except to pose.

He kept skipping and scampering across the sand and splashing into the water, busier than a seagull, and possibly livelier. He had no use for the blue vistas and white sand spread out before him, other than as a background for himself, and his nascent muscles.

I’m cruel. I guess so is my family.

That man adjusted his camera and jumped in the sun for the best part of three-and-a-half hours. For all that time, in between snoozing and chatting, we snickered at him, and I took pictures. I know I should have walked up, offered to take his picture, put him out of his misery. But it was far too much fun to just lie back and watch.

Here, I bring you the man on his quest for the Perfect Selfie. I hope he got it.

Selfie-Obsessed Man on a Beach Sunday morning Thoughts

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Selfie-Obsession at the Beach!

Selfie Obsession

Jumping about in Search of a Selfie

Do you take selfies? Possess a selfie rod? How many selfies do you take in an hour/day/week/month? Have any selfie-obsessed friends or relatives? Do you think we sometimes lose the moment while trying to show off on social media?

What’s Your Story? #socialmedia


Fishy thoughts

My thoughts on Social Media

Today, I had a minor setback. My first instinct– to go and share it on Facebook.

I don’t share much of my private life on my blog, nor on my Facebook or Twitter. But recently, I’ve noticed a tendency– or maybe a temptation– because I don’t give in to it, of sharing about my life on social media.

I recently read this article in the New Yorker by author Dani Shapiro, about exactly how damaging giving in to this temptation can be for writers:

I worry that we’re confusing the small, sorry details—the ones that we post and read every day—for the work of memoir itself. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for “sharing my story,” as if the books I’ve written are not chiseled and honed out of the hard and unforgiving material of a life but, rather, have been dashed off, as if a status update, a response to the question at the top of every Facebook feed: “What’s on your mind?” I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite.

In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters.

There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons. The gratification we memoirists do experience is infinitely deeper and more bittersweet. It is the complicated, abiding pleasure, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, of finding the universal thread that connects us to the rest of humanity, and, by doing so, turns our small, personal sorrows and individual tragedies into art.

I am given to Facebook updates and blog posts about the small things in life. Now I’ve begun to wonder whether that’s affecting my storytelling. Maybe I’m not building up enough steam over the years, by letting it out through my social media updates. Maybe the fact that I talk about small, impersonal-sounding details on my blog is affecting my storytelling abilities.

What’s your take on this? How much of your inner life/ rants/ life news do you share on Facebook and other social media? If you’re a writer, do you think sharing life experiences on social media detracts from an author’s ability to tell a story?

Who do you #Follow ? Who follows You?


Fifteen years ago, the question “Who do you Follow?” would have seemed strange, slightly vague.

A crazy reader like me would have said, Toni Morrison, I try to read all her books, or Alice Munro, or Garcia Marquez. And the list would have gone on. A religious person would have said, I follow Jesus, or Allah or Buddha…who else is worth following?

And then came Social Media.

Following on Social media

Who do you Follow? Who follows You? Photograph by Anita Peppers

You can now follow people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blog, Youtube, and a gazillion other sites.

You may also have a Social media Strategy.

I don’t know if I have one. I began by muddling on Twitter and Blogging, and my Facebook mostly consists of people I have met, where I post random stuff, links, writing experiences. Nothing private, really. (But then, what is private these days?)

The continuous feed of the thousands of folks I follow on my Twitter and Blogs tire me out– I mostly pick what catches my eye and ignore the rest. I have a list of specific folks whose tweets and blog posts I enjoy, and I try interacting with them whenever I can. I enjoy chatting with folks online, just as much as offline. I’m thankful for those who follow me on my Blog and my Twitter, and I can only hope I don’t bore them out of their skulls or tire them out.

For now, I’m happy with where I am, though sometimes I do consider quitting all social media. Imagine how much I could get done in all that offline time!

(Rant Alert) I don’t know if I’ll take to hawking my books (if I ever publish any) on social media– because frankly, most author marketing pisses me off these days: I don’t want to know about yet another book reveal or giveaway or sale. I’m sure the books are all lovely, but that’s just too much information crowding my timeline. My fault, I guess, for following back every author who followed me. (Rant Over)

What about you? Do you participate in Social Media? Do you have a Social Media Strategy? Do you hawk stuff you’d like to sell on Social Media? Do you buy a book you read about on tweets? Who do you follow? Who follows you?

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Blogs you must read!

Blogs I Recommend

I’ve been neglecting my duties as a member of the Blogging community, so here’s spreading some love. Bloggers I recommend visiting today:

C. Lee McKenzie : Fab author, awesome blog-friend. If you make one online friend this August, it should be her.

J. Gi. Federizo : But. Consider, please do consider making two blog friends this August. Meet the equally lovely J. Gi. She’s been one of my kindest visitors, and you’ll love her blog voice.

Bruce Goodman : I actually suggest you make three blog friends this month! I love Bruce’s stories, and you would, too. Besides, he leaves you the most awesome comments! What’s not to like? His blog is recommended reading.

 

How Do You get Away from the Internet?


Camels in Rajasthan India

Girls, Palaces, Camels– Rajasthan, India. Copy right Damyanti Biswas

To write about escaping the internet on a blog is a ridiculous, ironic, thing.

A blog is on the internet, after all, and why would I blog if I want to escape the internet?

I don’t, not really, not all the time.

But some days, the noise really gets to me, the constant demand of voices from all over– friends, strangers, trolls, crazies.

I plug off at such times, from my blogs, social media.

And then I travel– physically when I can, and into fiction when I can’t:  reading, and writing– that’s who I am, after all. A compulsive reader and writer.

Does the noise from the net ever get too much for you? How many hours in a day do you spend on the internet?

How much time do you spend with folks who don’t know what the internet is all about?

Have you ever wanted to escape the Internet? How do you do it?

Five Weird OCD Twitter Rituals You Should Consider Trying


Twitter is my favorite social media platform, but I have to confess I am a little OCD and ritualistic when it comes to my Twitter experience.  Most of these processes involve ways to clean up my tweet stream, but others are the ways I engage and interact. It might seem a little odd to some people, but it works out well for me.

Here are five of my weird OCD Twitter rituals:

1. TwitCleaner

On the first of every month, I religiously run TwitCleaner to clear the noise from my stream. It’s the quickest way to unfollow suspected bots, people who post too many duplicate links, people who post only links, and people who have little or no interaction with their followers.

2. ManageFlitter

Every Monday morning I run Manage Flitter to see who unfollowed me so I can return the gesture and  unfollow those who have inactive Twitter accounts. I’m always able to weed out between 30-60 followers that way. Perhaps it seems petty to unfollow those who’ve done the same to me, but I am a strong believer in two-way interaction.

3. Morning Tweets

I tweet every morning from 7:30am-8:30 am with my morning coffee (excepting weekends and vacation). I like to be able to to catch up with anyone who personally interacted with me since bedtime the night before and allows me to keep  a strong level of engagement with my most active followers.

4. Evening Tweets

I tweet every night from 8:45pm-9:45 pm (excepting weekends and vacation), because I work a regular 9-5 job during the day and my “mom” job after school, and this allows me to catch all the tweets I might have missed earlier in the day. I don’t like my tweets to go unnoticed, and I know my followers appreciate a reply. Sometimes I miss a few people, because I have a lot of activity in my mentions feed, but I try to be diligent in catching up with everyone.

5. Retweets

During my morning and evening tweet sessions, I make sure to retweet at least 20 followers each during both times from my main Tweet stream. I specifically select followers I haven’t had recent interaction with in awhile to let them know I haven’t forgotten them and to show a little extra love to the followers who have helped me with retweets and website visits. I also spend this time reaching out and interacting with people I might not have tweeted with in awhile.

Of course, there are times I am able to tweet a little during the day, but it’s not often.  With my weird OCD Twitter rituals in place, I feel like I’m on top of things most of the time. I have different routines for Facebook, G+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc., but those are posts for another time.

How about you? Do you have any OCD Twitter rituals? Assure me I’m not too crazy by sharing them in the comments! :-)

———–

This post by Amberr Meadows has been syndicated with permission from her and Jim Dougherty , on whose blog the post first appeared.

When Was the Last Time You had a Conversation?


And I don’t mean ‘Pass me the vegetables’ or ‘We ran out of milk’ sort of sound bytes. Nor do I mean texts, or Facebook messages, or Tweets.

Conversations

Conversations

Conversation is when two (or more) people talk face-to-face, not because they’ve been forced to by the circumstances, but because they wanted to talk, and took time out of their lives to do it.

I was recently visiting friends, and realized how our handheld devices– iPads, smartphones, distract our eyes (and attention) even when we’re with those we like/love. We never give fully of ourselves– in our need to stay connected with many, we hardly ever truly ‘connect’ with the person sitting next to us.

This is why, an article I read recently in the New York Times really resonated with me: (The article is quite worth a look..)

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

I agree that we use technology to keep others at bay while still giving the impression of complete accessibility– but it is not technology that makes us do it, but our increasingly self-centered world-view. We have no time for others.

A splendid (by my standards, anyway) conversation I had the other day was in fact enabled by an iPad– I and my girlfriends spoke across the seas to another of us, via Skype: she is expecting a new arrival, and we admired her baby bump, the cute (but slightly over-sized) woolens she has knitted for the baby, waved to her husband, and promised to take pictures and facebook all the local food she craved (but could not find in her new country) just in order to tease her!

From time immemorial, technology always has been a two-way process– we use it to make our lives easier, but it also affects us in ways we did not account for. I’m just hoping all our communication devices do not actually deprive us of our conversations.

When was the last time You had a conversation? Do you find yourself having less conversations the more you connect?