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Chug..chug.. chug… chug…

I read books. I really do. I just don’t hold on to them. But this time, I am going to make an exception.  And I am going to make this exception for the debutante- Monisha Rajesh- an Indian origin journalist based in London. Currently employed with The Week- UK she is a second generation emigrant of India and she makes it pretty evident throughout the book. Perhaps, the single most factor that makes this book an interesting read. An outsider’s inside outside perspective.

‘Around the India in 80 trains’ is a travelogue, capturing Monisha’s trials, tribulations, distress, excitement and finally her  triumphs of completing 80 train journeys across India, while the journey captures Monisha’s self-discovery through the lens of Indian railway network.

To cut the long story short, this book describes- how Monisha and her family uprooted from Sheffield to Madras, in a bid to remain connected with the ‘Indian roots’ only to return with a severe heart- ache over ‘soap-eating rats’, ‘corruption’, ‘organ-selling’, ‘severed human heads’, etc. However, like any flowing river who keeps flowing with a hope of finding its identity in the large ocean, Monisha returns after two decades to India, embarking on an adventurous journey discovering her roots through 80 trains mapping  40,000 km the circumference of earth.

With an aim to lift the veil on the mysterious stranger friend, the Indian railways (Introduced by Britishers to India. Thank heavens for that. And oh yes, the largest civilian employers in the world), takes Monisha and her atheist friend ploughing through sunrises, sunsets, drifting like a cloud from one state to other, flowing like a river from one city to another village, crawling through muddy, paddy fields to climbing mountains. Hopping from one luxury train to a toy train to a hospital train on wheels, to a crowded palpitating and sweaty passenger train, soon Monisha and her friend uncover their beliefs, about culture, etiquette, poverty, social mores, god and attaining nirvana. On the tracks, they also see and hear amusing colorful stories of Indian people, Indian society and the much ridiculous ‘India shining’ lie.

And to tell you the truth, reading the book is a more of a deja vu. Having known snoring males, to naked kids on train berths to the much obnoxious women, whose only business is to get you married, makes you cringe. A few stories of really helpful people and the grandeur of Indian networks carrying more than twenty million each days, makes you smile.

Upvote: Overall the book is damn neat. Humorous, witty and really makes you question the so called ‘India shining’ image that the elite  of the country constantly perpetuate. The language is utterly simple. More than often the book is fast paced and that makes it unstoppable.

This book will make you want to experience the Indian railways. Yes, I want to travel in the Indian trains now. 😉

On the downside, this book saddens you and put across a stark question- Is there nothing good about India? The book also ridicules the concept of urban India, arguing that the real India exists in its downtrodden beliefs, customs and social mores. It forgets to understand the complexity of this country, where the rich exists along side with the poor. In the rich, there are good and bad. Amongst the poor, there are people who crib, while there are some who enjoy living a modest life and have nothing to do with worldly measures of education and a good life.

All in all,, my recommendation for the book is- Read it! You can’t miss this one! 🙂

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Saying- “I do”

I have hit a road block. These days, I can’t think. I am so bored. It is a very bad time, if you have to think, before you talk. I have been thinking, what should be my next blog.

Unfortunately, there has been no PR crisis. Nor, any crime has been in the news. This is a worst sign for any blogger. If you have to wait for an incident or event to blog about, then you might be dead as well.

Earlier, when people used to get bored, they used to chat up with friends, family, colleagues. These day, we tweet or put up a status on Facebook or some rather intellectual ones might ask questions on Quora.

But for me, it was different. I find inspiration on Pinterest! Yes, as my blog name suggests, I would like to believe that my blog will be world of stories. Vibrant, young and colourful stories.

So while I was on Pinterest, I created a board.”I do”

Yes, all of a sudden, I am obsessed with creating a scrapbook of weddings and all things to do with brides and grooms.

Disclaimer: I am not thinking about marriage for myself now. But, I am taken back by the grandeur, the magnificence and the beauty surrounding the event – ‘weddings.’

While, I am still trying to figure out what ‘wedding’ or rather ‘marriage’ means to me- I am very sure, ‘Weddings’ are quite different from ‘marriages’. While wedding is just an event, ‘marriage’ it seems is a bond. Some cultures go to an extent of signing this bond for seven lives. Gosh!

So clearly, my obsession is with the event. I guess most of us are obsesses with the ‘event’ than the actual bond. Have a look at these pictures. The human psyche plays games. I am guessing everyone wants a ‘wedding’ now 😉

Or, may be we are just scared of a ‘Wedding.’ And everybody wants a ‘Marriage.’

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Looking at these images- a question arises in my mind. Why should anybody say- ” I do”

Do you have an answer? Drop me a line here.. then 🙂

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As you realize you’re turning into an adult… do you realize that adults are just overgrown children?

Answer by Deepika Gumaste:

I think this answer will probably differ from person-to-person, as who we are what we become all depends on our external surroundings, the enemies we make, the friends we keep, the social and cultural mores, the economic backgrounds, the country we live in.

I live in India. Somehow, I have felt, Indians no matter what their age- always behave like kids. Mostly, our economic-socio-political conditions are at work. In India, unlike our western counterparts- concepts such as 'sex before marriage', 'giving attention to one's sexual needs, particularly if you are a woman', 'live-in relationships,' staying independently without parents are all looked down upon. So, at any point in time, if you compare an average American to an average India, perhaps you'll think that Indian adults are over-grown kids 🙂

This was in a very broad sense.

Coming back to your original question- for me, as I am growing up, I am realizing the difference between an adult and a kid. Kids are innocent. For adults, 'Wisdom' is the  word. If as an adult you feel bogged down by wisdom, knowing not what to do in times of crisis and you throw a tantrum- then you are an overgrown kid.

However, if you are open to ideas, concepts, experiences (all sorts of them- adventurous  scary, exciting, thrilling, loving, cheerful, unknown, etc), and learning from your own mistakes, then you are not a kid anymore. You realize, you are becoming an adult. (I think, I am at this stage.)

People say, that there is a kid in every adult and therefore never lose him/her. I beg to differ.

I think, enjoy all stage of your life to the fullest. Right from being a kid, to a teenager, to an adult, to an old age guy/girl. Enjoy every bit of your age.

That's how we complete our human cycle. 🙂

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What are some mind-blowing facts about Hinduism?

Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:

  1. Hinduism is the world's 3rd largest religion closely following Christianity and Islam. However, unlike the top 2 religions, 95% of Hindus live in a single nation! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations#Adherents.com_estimates
  2. If you ask a religious Hindu, when did Krishna or Rama live – they will give an answer like 50 million years ago or some other random big number. Actually, it doesn't matter. Because, Hindus believe in a circular time (rather than the linear time concept in the Western world). That means, after enough cycles I will write this same answer to you on Quora, once again. http://hinduism.about.com/od/basics/a/time.htm
  3. Each of our time cycles has 4 main periods – the Satya yuga (golden age of innocence), Tretha Yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali Yuga. In the last stage, people get so filthy that whole thing is cleaned up and the cycle starts all over again.
  4. Hinduism is the oldest of the major extant religions. Its fundamental book – Rig Veda was written over 3800 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rig_Veda
  5. Rig Veda was orally passed for 3500+ years in parallel. And yet, its current form has no major discrepancies. It is indeed a stupendous achievement that a major body of work can be orally passed between people in such a large nation with no loss in quality/content. http://elearning.la.psu.edu/rlst001/lesson-2/lesson-2.3
  6. Unlike other major religions, Hinduism doesn't consider the pursuit of wealth as a sin. In fact, we celebrate wealth in the form of many gods such as Lakshmi, Kubera and Vishnu. Hinduism has a 4 level hierarchy – Kama (pursuit of sexual/sensual pleasures) – Artha (pursuit of wealth and power), Dharma (pursuit of philosophy, religion and doing duties to society) and Moksha (liberation) and we progress from the top to bottom. This is very close to Maslow's hierarchy and thus Hindus are natural capitalists.
  7. Hinduism is the parent religion for 2 of the other major religions of South Asia – Buddhism and Sikhism. It is also closely associated with its sister religion – Jainism.
  8. The holiest number for Hindus is 108. This is the ratio of Sun's distance (from earth)/Sun's diameter or Moon's distance (from earth)/Moon's diameter. Thus, most of our prayer beads have 108 beads. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/108_(number)#Hinduism
    Also see Ganesh Mohan's answer to Numbers: What is the most beautiful number, and why?
  9. Beyond India, Hinduism is the dominant religion of many exotic regions such as Nepal, Mauritius, Bali, second biggest religion of Fiji & Sri Lanka and at one point covered most of South east Asia – including Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia. See more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism#Demographics
  10. The Hindu epic of Mahabharatha – that is often used to teach the principles of Hinduism – is written in 1.8 million words long poem (10X the combined length of the Illiad and Odyssey) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata
  11. Unlike all other major religions, we don't have a founder or a prophet (like Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammad or Buddha). According to Hindus, the religion has no origin (again coming back to the circular concept).
  12. Unlike the popular Western conception, Yoga in Hinduism is not merely an exercise routine. It is the founding block of the religion. Read more in my other answer: Balaji Viswanathan's answer to Yoga: What should everyone know about Yoga?
  13. The 4 most holiest animals for Hindus are the cow, elephant, snake and peacock (India's national bird and a wagon of many Hindu gods) – 4 main animals of India.
  14. The largest religious structures in the world – Ankor Vat in Cambodia were built by the Hindu kings of South East Asia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Wat
  15. Hinduism has no formal organization – no Pope, no Bible and no central body.
  16. Unlike Christians or Muslims, we go to the temple at any time, any day. There are no special Sabbath, Sunday congregations or Friday prayers.
  17. Hindu scriptures are organized into Vedas (poems that written in multiple levels from abstract rural level and going deeper into cosmic universe), Upanishads (scientific discourses and arguments about the world), Brahmanas (manuals for ritual performances), Aranyakas (experiments done on human mind and nature in the forests), Puranas (mythologies about Hindu gods) and Itihasas (notebooks on "historical" events"). See more: Balaji Viswanathan's answer to Hinduism: What are the main scriptures for Hindus? How are they organized?
  18. Hindus don't mourn for anything and believe that happiness is the highest form of religious achievement. Thus, unlike most other religions there is no sad festivals for us where we are supposed to mourn.
  19. Fire & Light are among the holiest of offerings for Hindus. The concept of Yajna – offering things to fire – is considered one of the highest forms of worships in Hinduism. It symbolizes the idea that everything meets its end.

     

  20. Hinduism's holiest body of works – Rig Veda – talks of 33 main gods.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-three_gods Although most Hindus consider the Vedas as the holiest, none of those 33 gods are in mainstream worship now. 
  21. Unlike other major religions, Hindu scriptures ask a number of philosophical questions and is ok with "don't know" answer for some of them. One of the critical body of these questions is the Prashna Upanishad – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prashna_Upanishad – unfortunately most of us cannot understand the answer to the fundamental questions posted there.
  22. Hindus strongly believe in rebirth and karma. That means my next birth will be determined by my actions of this birth.
  23. Hindus hold big chariot processions to carry their gods during special occasions. Some of these chariots can be huge and marauding – sometimes killing people in their path when they lose control. The biggest one of all – Jagannath – gave the English dictionary term Juggernaut -meaning the unstoppable one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juggernaut
  24. Hindus hold Ganga as the purest of all waters and believe that bathing in it can purify them of their sins. While part of it is myth, there is also a scientific reason. See Balaji Viswanathan's answer to India: Why is it believed that the Ganges is self-cleaning?

Also see: Balaji Viswanathan's answer to What are the top ten verses in the Hindu Scriptures that would enlighten a non-Hindu?

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Why do PR firms disappoint, and what makes a GREAT PR partner?

Answer by Deepika Gumaste:

Your question is a bit unclear. We can answer your question, only after you have reflected on these-

Looking at your question, I am going to assume that you are on the client side- either a corporate communication professional or the client yourself.

In either case, let's reflect:

  1. Did you give your agency a proper written brief?: A brief that would detail your vision, mission and business goals for the company. Please pardon me, but these are not just words. These will form the foundation of your PR campaign.Therefore, 'how much' an agency can deliver depends on this very brief. Have you explained your agency, what exactly are you expecting out of PR? Sales, reputation management, crisis management?
  2. Are you small, big, listed, non-listed?: This might sound a little weird. But as a communication consultant, it is a truth and we have to live with it. Your size and popularity does determine how fast your PR plan will succeed. If you are a start-up, please don't expect out of your poor PR partner to land up you $0.02 in The New York Times or any leading newspapers. It will take time for a start-up to reach those levels of popularity. Remember, "Rome was not built in a day." On the other hand take it from me- If you are a listed company, in countries like India, your target audiences including the media, 'tend' to listen to you.
  3. Budgets: Most PR partners complain- that clients are not ready to shell out big money as they would do for their advertising campaigns. Ask yourself- have you ever faced such a situation. Are you willing to shell out that kind of money? True that PR is different from advertising in a way, that you don't need to buy space in leading publications. But don't forget that even a PR agency is a company. Even they need to take care of their employees. They need to ensure that their employees are not overworking. They need to equip their employees and train them. And these things, require budgets.
  4. Communication and Trust:This should have probably fared much higher on my questions to you perhaps. Do you trust your agency? Do you believe in them for their expertise? Many a times, a client demands a press conference for an announcement. The PR agency might suggest otherwise. Perhaps, they would suggest an exclusive with a leading business daily to be followed up with a press release dissemination. Would you trust them for their judgement? They are the experts in their field and are dealing with the media, day in and day out. Are you willing to go ahead with their expertise? If no, then what would you expect out of the agency, when your 'press conference' plans backfire and you don't get the expected results?

If your answers to all these questions are- "I have tried it all." Then and only then, I would suggest you to re-think about your PR agency.

Hope this helps.

My $0.02

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