Building Poetry, Shaping Me: Architect @ Tuning Fork

Another Monday at the Tuning Fork and how can I possibly hate the week when it starts that way?

I’ve been struggling a bit with performance poetry. I now know the difference between performed poetry and spoken word. I can’t entirely articulate it but I can see, hear and feel the difference. Spoken Word comes naturally to me; it’s almost like I have always been able to do it but only been thwarted and stopped by other people’s limited ideas or controlling actions. I speak what I think and it’s pretty lucid and even interesting if I’ve practised.

On the other hand, my poetry is somewhat prettier with flourishier words and ideas than I’d usually use while speaking. How to express these, on stage especially, without feeling like a dolt? Because really those feelings all bubble up and show in the nervous fidgets, the unnecessary grins, the odd-sounding voice intonation. How to be true to the poem and not sully it with these other things?

Then I remembered my mother telling me, years ago, to close my eyes and really feel the sentiment and that my performance would ring true if I did that. Of course, she was speaking about music. She’s a trained classical singer and has performed on All India Radio in her youth. I took her advice and it served me well through my singing days. You didn’t know I had music in my history, did you? Not if you’ve met me or my blog only recently. Well, another day.

But a performance is a performance, music or poetry and why not try the same tactic here, I reasoned? I think it worked.

I wrote ‘Architect’ several months ago. I even had a chance to perform it at The Hive a few weeks back. That particular evening, I was accompanied by someone whose presence I valued but who didn’t really know that much about poetry. It was an evening of high emotion, some tears and a turning point in a friendship.

But yesterday, Swamini showed up. And her workshop at Word Lounge on writing about spaces had reignited my interest in this poem. I really wanted to run it by her. I knew she would just get what I was trying to do with it.

So, what do you think? Did the performance I’ve painstakingly constructed stand? Does my story speak to you, free of fuss and awkwardness? Here’s ‘Architect‘ at the Tuning Fork.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

DNA Feature: ‘From Business Consultancy To Performance Poetry, This Woman Manages It All’

Earlier this week, DNA ran a story on my performances as a Spoken Word artist. Heh, I’m deeply flattered. The story is titled ‘From business consultancy to performance poetry, this woman manages it all

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Tuning Up The Poetry At Tuning Fork

So Karthik showed up at the Open Mic earlier this week. I was running late and we barely had a few minutes to catch up and sync up. There was a super ANNOYING couple at the table next to us talking LOUDLY during a performance and saying things like “He’s not good.” about the performers on stage. The owners politely asked them to shush up, which gave me the confidence to throw them a derisive look. The venue is an art/culture place so what kind of a douchebag philistine comes to sit there and yap at the top of his voice? Anyway, said philistine pair (shall we call them PP?) moved to the terrace, which was unfortunate because that’s where some of the performers have taken to practicing or grabbing a smoke in between performances. Karthik and I managed to steadfastly ignore them, the sweat pouring down our faces on account of Mumbai’s drawnout welcome to the monsoons and PP walking around LOUDLY between us several times. At one point, they were joined by an even louder male friend who turned to us and offered to ‘give advice and feedback about the performance’ with a wink at PP. Seriously, I hope you both get married to each other and live a suffocating, sexless, boring happily ever after. Douchey single friend can stay single and pathetic.

As it turned out, Karthik and I made it back to the stage just in time for the break. The Tuning Fork guys chipped in and offered to record our performances and asked for a sound check. Karthik got into his groove. It’s a wonder how this boy is completely oblivious to the world when it’s him and his guitar (me so lucky we met and he agreed to collaborate).

We started with Paper Dolls that we first did at TARQ back in January. It’s such an intense, artsy piece I didn’t think we’d ever have a chance to do it again, outside an art gallery.

Then the other performers returned. And we closed off with Lullaby which is totally my ohmygoddidwecreateTHAT?

These videos are as usual, the ones shot on my phone by a friend. I’ll put up the professional ones shot by the Tuning Fork folks shortly. These Monday evenings make me very, very happy.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Paper Towns

…is the name of a book by the guy who wrote ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. I happened to mention what an amazing title that was and what a shitty book it turned out to be. My AlphabetSambar peeps suggested we reclaim it by writing something else around it. And Sunday served up the perfect post to match the title.

Over dinner, one of the writers proclaimed that Spoken Word was shallow. He wouldn’t or couldn’t explain why. It bothered me that a person of words would be so loose with their ideas, so thoughtless with their thoughts. To my mind, a writer is the explorer of thought, the wielder of words. How can we allow ourselves the luxury of treating them so carelessly?

It bothered me because now I will question everything I read or hear from this person. If he doesn’t care about words, how can I trust him enough to let him take my mind on a journey? It bothered me that people let self-importance and ego limit their flights of fancy.

I enjoy gatherings of writers and artists for a lot of reasons. But the primary one is that I love being a part of people’s journeys. With this blog, I invite people into my own journey. At these events, I’m a hopeful mind traveller, waiting for anyone who wants to take me along on their journey. The quality of people’s writing doesn’t bother or touch me as much these days. I’m more intrigued by who they are shaping up to be in the process of journeying.

I met Anu after a really long time. The last time I saw her, she whispered in a conspiratorial tone that she was pregnant. Now she’s mother to a nine-month old and several poems and ideas but I haven’t met her in the interim. I enjoyed her performance. But most of all, I was moved beyond measure by how far she has come from when I saw her last – in her writing, in her body language, in who she is. I got to be a part of her journey almost two years ago when she joined Alphabet Sambar and from here on, her journey will always touch me.

These gatherings are also full of people I’ve come to think of as ‘career poets’. They’re in such a tearing hurry to achieve goals and form impressions, that somewhere they cease to move along on their journeys. I don’t like riding paper trails.

I called Adi, almost out of desperation on my way home. He listened gravely and then chuckled and said,

“You should be thrilled, not annoyed. It sounds like you got the best of the argument.”

Well, maybe I did. That’s nothing great. I have my share of weapons and tools that I can brandish. But I wasn’t looking for war, I was looking for an interesting journey. Still, I felt better at the end of the call because I realised what I was looking for when I called Adi. I was searching for a reminder that I was not alone, a single flesh-and-blood person in a world of paper promises and paper cuts and paperthin words.

Adi tends to have more placid reactions than mine but he also lives in a smaller, less frantic city than I do. I find this paperness in people everywhere I go – in the corporate world, the creative fields, the poetry circuit, my neighborhood, my social media communities. It’s relentless and sometimes I find myself feeling like I’m drowning in a sea of superficiality. I never learnt to swim in paper.

I miss Manisha when she isn’t around like she wasn’t this weekend. She represents my sole beacon of hope in the darkness of paper in creative gatherings. I admire her as a writer but she is more than her last accolade and the number of compliments people pay her. And through her dramatic moods, she never loses sight of that. Real people keep me sane in a town of paper people.

Home and a cool shower later, I feel somewhat saner. Perhaps it’s not fair to extrapolate this one incident. That would be such a paper thing to do too. People, especially those in their 20s are still getting tossed about in the reckless environment that is this city. Artists and writers frequently lose their sense of reality especially after their achieve some recognition. And (I hope) nobody is a paper person all the time. Maybe the next time I hear him speak, he will say something that will change my life or those of many people.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Companionship Online Versus Company IRL

I was a lonely child. I think we all are and we stay that way for most of our lives. It is difficult to find the exact kind of affection, support and loyalty that we are looking for. So most of us do what the wisdom of the ages tell us and compromise. We settle for company since we can’t have companionship.

I’ve had a light week. I took a break after several weeks of stress, tension, ill health and nose-to-grindstone work. Immediately I fell into bad sleep habits and the corresponding poor moods. I’ve also desperately yearned for someone to have coffee with, someone to go to a movie with, someone to snuggle up with and talk to, someone to be with. It’s not something we get to acknowledge a lot these days, it is? Need is often confused with neediness.

This time though I noticed something else. My old instincts were to reach out to the not-so-goods, the people who never have time for me, people who don’t treat me that nice because they are well, people. I’ve always regretted doing this but loneliness is like hunger and you tend to reach for food, no matter how poisonous it is. For a change, I didn’t do that. And it passed. This is not so new. After all, with every year of thirty, the lonely pangs are getting to seem more like fleeting annoyances.

I’ve been reading. Late in the week I installed a few new apps, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia and TED among them. A part of me thought, well TED is just one of those pretentious things that looks good to have. But I’ve spent the last hour switching between these three apps and you know what? I’ve been having fun!

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Image via Unsplash/Gilles Lambert

It makes me think, I’m not really lonely. I already have access to a world of companionship. It just doesn’t correspond to the traditional ways of finding and enjoying companionship. It probably means different things to different people but for me, companionship is feeling constantly inspired, understood, accepted, cherished and entertained. With the people that I have this with, I feel every moment being lived, rather than just passing. I have a handful of them (with enough leeway to hold a teacup) and I don’t get this from most other people around me.

Normally, I’d have to make do with this and feel grateful for the handful that I do feel myself, my life with. But I am a digital native and a blogger to boot. My blog completed 12 years a couple of days ago. And the tribe I found is nearly the same age. Almost the very minute I opened a window into my life on the internet, connection flowed in. And yes, it is enough, it’s more than enough.

I have never subscribed to the thought that the digital universe cannot replace the real. My most meaningful relationships have been with people that I know online. I met my two closest friends through Twitter. The profound kind of sharing (of everything — hobbies, silly jokes, uninformed opinions, fears, bad moods, advice) that happens online, I don’t see its equivalent in the solely offline world. So how does it matter that companionship is coming my way in bits and bytes instead of sound waves and light beams? Who cares that a lot of them are continents away and on different timezones? I am really a creature of ideas, of the mind. Loneliness for me means being around someone whose mind doesn’t connect with mine. I feel a far deeper connection with the minds that create witty articles and brilliant TED talks, than I do with most people that study and work with me.

I’d rather have that than spend my life ‘in quiet desperation’ (as Pink Floyd puts it) exchanging social banalities with people just because they are around. I’m great company for myself so I deserve more than that from the world. If it comes to me online, so be it. Here’s a talk that made me feel like I was listening to myself speak of my own journey.

 

I once got involved in the life of a premature baby in a country that I had never been to. I’ve been a part of coming out stories and healed together with other survivors of abuse and rape. I’ve shared the story of falling in love, navigating a relationship, getting engaged, getting dumped and dealing with the grief of an ex who won’t give me the dignity of closure. Being a blogger is more than just a hobby or a profession or even a lifestyle. It is a life and it is mine. I am so lucky.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

On Motherhood, Discomfort & Poetry

I’ve had a breather from work and life’s madness and I find myself able to write again. Surely you can’t have missed the volley of blogposts all of a sudden. Poetry is flowing again too. Here’s my scathing tribute to Mother’s Day. At all three places there were cautious claps and that uneasy sense of errr…umm ness. Good, I never promised you a rose garden.

I had a chance to perform this piece at three different places but this is the best of them all. Tuning Fork is fast becoming my favorite stage.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Where I bitch about things that hurt and find my way back…to a good book

I bought a Kindle earlier this year, a very late purchase I know for a voracious reader like me. I guess I still think of gadgets as luxuries and I am kind of spartan in my head. The first thing I ever saved up my pocket money for, was a book, an Archie comic double digest. A book is also the first thing I ever earned. After I began working, I made the transition into buying brand new books, awarding myself that luxury. And I’ve been rather undisciplined after that, allowing myself this one vice of buying books freely without regard to cost, storage space (a VERY BIG factor in Mumbai) or time to read. It’s one of the reasons I shied away from buying an eReader for this long. What would I do of the heaving shelves of as yet unread books?

When I finally bought the Kindle, I vowed that I would be very prudent in my ebook purchases and only buy books that I was going to read immediately and even then, only buy a new book after I’d completed an older one. My first buy was a book that I fell instantly in love with and it pulled me back into reading. Yes, I’ve never gone for long without a book but it’s such a deeply ingrained relationship now that it goes with the taking for granted, the occasional neglect, the other priorities taking over aspects.

Right after I finished Gone Girl, I decided to finally give in to the Game of Thrones mania. When you’ve had a relationship with books and reading as deeply as I have, you take every step with caution. A book can and has changed my life so I only let one in with prudence. I am so sorry to say that this was a mistake.

I have been struggling with the books (I bought the entire collection – I may be prudent but I don’t do half measures) right after I finished the excerpt and began nearing end of Book 1.Game of Thones. I put it down to it being a distant genre. Fantasy and Medieval fiction have never felt like my own universes the way social Sci-fi, Literary fiction, Modern women’s fiction and Children’s fiction have. At the end of book 1, I went off to read other things and returned, hoping things would be  better. Book 2.A Clash of Kings was no better; worse if anything. I struggled and finally allowed myself to slash through the pages (no, not really but the page-turning command on a Kindle feels a bit like a finger slash) barely reading the words. I just about made it and plowed on to Book 3.A Storm of Swords. All I can say about the book is several oppressive characters and situations have ended.

I was midway through Book 4.A Feast for Crows last night when I realised it. I’d been having nightmares for the past few weeks. Well, perhaps not nightmares in the conventional sense of monsters etc. but dreams and sleeptime thoughts that were deeply unpleasant and disturbing. I’ve been waking up feeling very drained and unhappy. The last thing I read or watch or listen to at night usually carries through into my sleep and for weeks now, I’ve had blood-soaked images of rape, pillaging, torture, murder and genocide. I give up. I’m done with this wretched story.

More than once I’ve tossed and turned and had to switch on the light to get a drink of water or just lie awake, reading or listening to music, unable to sleep. Last night, I put it aside and picked up a fresh book (something I very rarely do at 3 in the morning). It’s an Indian author I picked up at one of my book binges before the Kindle purchase. Two chapters in I was hooked and already my mind in that peaceful place where a good story can lull me to sleep.

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Image via Unsplash/Patrick Tomasso

I’ve woken up not just feeling better but also with the insight that I need to get up from bed slower in the mornings. Low blood pressure hits me most days and I’m just realising this. So I lay staring at the ceiling for a good ten minutes before getting up and the day has only been getting better.

I realise this may sound odd to some people but a book really is that important. Especially when it plays the role that human relationships usually do, why would I associate with a book that is brutal and seems to revel in it? I’ve already been in a relationship with a monster like that and I was lucky to get out. I don’t need a book version of the same thing. So no more GoT for me.

I got to thinking about this relationship that I have with stories and books.

When I was 20, I was reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I enjoyed the rabid revolutionary ideas and her powerful words that would pour into my head, as I was sandwiched between rush hour train commuters on my way to and from work (my first job). There was a distinct moment when I remember thinking, this isn’t good for me but it feels so good. I had the good sense to walk away from the book midway (don’t ask why I never have the good sense to do that in relationships). I’ve never regretted it. And that’s why when I hear Ayn Rand fans raving, I must look at them with the rueful knowing of someone who was intoxicated but escaped.

I also quit 50 Shades of Grey after two books but that was different. I was enraged, rather than enthralled. Luckily Adi pointed out that I might be reacting to the bad writing and not to the genre itself. I had to test out that idea so I went ahead and devoured several other pieces of erotic writing, including but not limited to S&M. I found a new area of interest and I even ended up conducting a workshop on Erotica Writing.

I shivered through The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Admittedly the title hooked me because my own first tattoo was about three years old then and I felt like I was answering to the name of that girl. The story horrified me but I completed it, it was just such good writing. I even sat through the Swedish version of the film. But I decided, I couldn’t palate the ruthless rape, murder descriptions so I have never read the other two even though both my parents have and love them.

I guess my soulmate truly is the world of books and stories. The books I’m reading shape my mood, my attitude and even my aspirations. I cannot afford to be imprudent. I have to be as cautious about what I put into my mind as I am about my body.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

No Generation Of My Own

I was 30 before I got into a ‘proper’ relationship and it was with someone younger. Someone asked my father,

“Doesn’t it seem like Ramya is five years behind her generation?”

He said,

“Or maybe, she’s five years ahead of her generation.”

Yes, that is a wonderful reference for a parent to set and sustain. I didn’t see it that way myself till I heard it.

I never identified with my age-peers. When I was 16, I couldn’t see what point there was in getting into any manner of flirtation or relationships. I could already see that there would be all manner of drama, family, friends and self-caused. Weren’t there already enough things to torment a teenager in India in the 90s?

I also never really ‘got’ the marriage thing through my 20s. Why are you marrying him or her, I’d ask my friends and get answers like, “Because it’s the thing to do”, “because my parents said so”.

And finally when I first quit my important corporate job to stop, think and catch my breath (the term ‘sabbatical’ was not common then), NOBODY got it. But a few months in, surprised at my okayness, people would keep saying, “Oh, lucky you, I wish I could do that!”. Why not, I’d ask, do you have a family to support or loans to pay off? None of these conversations ever happened with anyone who would have to say Yes to that.

All in all, I’ve never gotten the generation that people say I’m a part of.

On the other hand, my work, my hobbies, my love life and my life style are populated by people about 5 years younger than I. Since they came into the properly adult world in their mid-20s, they’ve felt more like my rightful generation, my crowd than the people I shared classrooms, playgrounds and career levels with.

But there’s something else. Haven’t I often said I feel old? I do. I carry the point of view of a 37 year old in a generation of 31 year olds. I have the memories and lessons of an 80s upbringing in a world of 90s and noughties kids. This is not about maturity because I don’t think that is a linear thing. Maturity has a great deal to do with personality, with experience and insight and time doesn’t exist on the same dimension as those things. This is about perspective and priority.

I tire often of the younger men I date because they are struggling with managing time, health and newfound economic freedom. I’ve already gone through these teething problems and woes and I know what works best for me. I have no desire to relive them in someone else’s problems this time.

I find myself getting impatient with my younger friends for their ineptitude, and in what silly ways they let ego blind their promises and work quality. It’s not that I was any better when I was in my late 20s. But I’ve passed through those tests of fire and I don’t struggle with them anymore. Even the very natural insecurities and diffidence — it’s starting to wear me down, how much there is in everybody around me.

Were we also that scared of everything? I’m sure we were but we were each so consumed in our fears that we scarcely paid heed to each other and the world around us. And therein lies a ‘we’ that I dislike. I suddenly have something in common with a generation that I never felt I fit in with.

But they don’t feel like a comfortable fit either. They’re grousing about struggling marriages (well, what did you expect with the reasons you got into them?), deadend careers (again, follow the rules not your independent mind and are you surprised?) and how ‘today’s kids’ spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter. I’m shutting that door already, saying oops, I entered the wrong room.

My two closest friends are both six years younger than I am. One of them has moved across the country for a girlfriend then moved back and changed careers. Another has quit a super prestigious corporate career, gotten married, started an unconventional (and seemingly uncool) business and then changed. These experiences undoubtedly put them beyond their age-peers in terms of perspective. They are exceptions as am I. It makes it possible for us to be very good friends. But exceptions have to be loners because we tread such unique paths.

This isn’t an angry or even a sad place. I don’t anymore feel like I don’t know my place in the universe. I know that it doesn’t have to do with what other people say and each day I’m getting a little closer to knowing what it is. I’ve gone a full circle from sitting by the phone with no one wanting to speak to me to switching off my phone to hide under hoods so I can get some private time. No, it’s not a desolate place at all. But it is a lonely place, waiting for the world to catch up, knowing maybe no generation ever will.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

My Fortnight In A Playlist of Poetry

I haven’t really felt like writing much of late. I also haven’t felt like talking or socialising as much. It has been a month of enjoying the cliched ‘my own company’. And no, I don’t mean solo dates. I mean, there is so much going on even when I’m only talking to myself.

Anyway, I haven’t exactly been antisocial. There has been work. And in addition, I’ve been going to a lot of poetry events. That doesn’t feel as much like socialising, especially if it’s newer venues and events. I’ve been seeking the last actively for awhile and I found two. They’re great for now because they are fresh enough to be open to all forms of poetry and attract completely fresh slate minds. So yes, there’s cliches, there’s teenage angst and canned feminism and stale cynicism. But it comes from unfamiliar faces, in newer stories. And best of all, the career poets haven’t showed up as yet. These are the people who are approach poetry, performance and events the same way mid-level managers approach corporate events armed with visiting cards and antacids.

I realise how bitchy that sounds considering a fair lot of them are known to me. I hesitate to call most of them friends because I learnt more than a year later that they’re no different from the b-school alumni meet crowd. There used to be a certain quality to the poetry with performers like this but now it’s all so formulaic and worst of all, drowned in the politics of who’s getting showcased, who’s performing on which show, who got paid and how much. And with all that comes the condescension, the backbiting, the sniping (in whispers and in poetry). Writers are truly appalling people. Well, people are appalling people.

Anyway, I discovered entirely by mistake two new platforms. The first was Art Refurbish’s poetry slam + Open Mic at Khar Social. The crowd was entirely unfamiliar. I made it in late after having wrapped up a three hour webinar and a trek through the heat. The freshness of the performances and the audience was invigorating. I was one of the last performers and I did ‘Paper Plane‘ but I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time. Truly, this is a wonderful medium that allows your old stories to be reborn with every telling.

The Hive feels like homebase now but the crowd was almost all new and there was a new host too. For all intents and purposes, that makes it a new event. I brought out ‘Paper Dolls‘ from my TARQ event earlier this year.

Tuning Fork turned up two events within the space of a week. The first time, I was wearing a saree just because I was in a mood to. And I went in with ‘Feminist Poetry‘ well, because I thought it would be funny to do that particular piece when the audience probably expected more ‘respectable, traditional poetry from the woman in the saree’. An old poet-friend had referenced angry feminists in his heartbreak poetry earlier. I called him out mid-performance and the audience laughed, him along with them all.:-)

The next week, I was determined to not continue with the feminism theme. I had attended the Caferati Open Mic at Prithvi earlier in the evening after all. Karthik showed up as a surprise and we performed ‘Lullaby‘ there.

But at Tuning Fork later in the night, one young man started his piece addressing the (exaggerated airquotes) FEMININAZIS in the audience. Several people turned around and looked right at me and when it was my turn, they hooted. So I changed my plan and went in with ‘SuperWoman‘.

And then, when I finished, I got off the stage, changed my mind and returned to request another performance. I concluded with ‘Paper Plane‘, my third rendition in two weeks (I also addressed Manisha’s Creative Writing class and concluded my talk with a rendition, not recorded).

Later that night, the young man came up to me and said “Well played.” I grinned back at him. This is so cool. Banter and conversations in poetry. Me for the world, only in poetry. I’ll enjoy it while I can.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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