Ideart: How To Paint An Assassin

Here’s something I painted for the boy for his birthday. He’s a gaming freak and Assassin’s Creed is one of his favorite franchises. In honour of the visual/verbal medium, this post is in a comic-book panel format. Presenting Ezio Auditorie:

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Bajaj Allianz Jiyo Befikar awards ‘The Most Inspirational Working Women 2012’

* This is a sponsored post.

Bajaj Allianz’s Jiyo Befikar Women is running a poll on ‘The Most Inspirational Working Women 2012’. The finalists include 9 participants from various fields and showcasing different achievements. There are also two special mentions who did not qualify for the contest but have been featured because they deserved recognition too.

The nominees

Each of these 11 women has a story of personal glory, ranging from extreme sporting triumphs to overcoming a health condition to give back to society. A lot of the women have broken ground in areas that are traditionally seen to be men’s forte. Others juggle parallel lives with multiple interests, activities and jobs, all with aplomb, being poster girls for womanhood’s multi-tasking abilities.

The nominees are:

1. Annam Suresh, Kolkata
Development Journalist whose work covers commercial sex workers.

2. Urvashi Patole, Bangalore
Creator of Bikerni, India’s only all-women biking association & social media executive

3. Anu Vaidyanathan, Bangalore
India’s only woman triathlete (extreme sport combining athletics, biking and swimming) who also runs Pat & Marks IPR Consulting

4. Sucheta Kadethankar, Pune
The only Indian woman to trek across Gobi desert (1680 km). Also a Symantech employee

5. Chandersuta Dogra
Avid car rallyist and Outlook magazine editor

6. Yogita Rajgandhi, Mumbai
Consulting Opthalmologist, Teacher, National co-ordinator for 120 colleges

7. Deepali Joshi
Dentist who has cycled all the way to the highest motorable road in the world

8. Yogita Salvi
Office Administrator, Ruia college who conducts nationalism drives among students

9. Farah Ghadiali
Musician and Events marketing manager at NCPA

The special mentions are:

Archana Achyutan, Chennai
Cerebral palsy survivor and founder of Sampurn Counselling Center

Rakhee Mehra, Delhi
Founder, Frontfoot Sports Management

The contest is being judged based on an open vote and a special jury including Deepa Malik, a paraplegic rally driver who holds multiple Limca Book records. She represents India in the London Paralympics 2012. The jury also includes Mrs Roopa Kocchar and Mrs Anamika Rashtrawar, both successful Bajaj Allianz employees.

The event

On Saturday, 28 April 2012, the award will be announced. During the event, all the nominees will be part of a panel discussion, which will be broadcast live. In addition, the panel will also take questions from Twitter that are hashtagged #jiyobefikarwomen. The best tweets will receive special prizes.

I’m going to be covering the event on Twitter so watch my tweets and also the hashtag stream #jiyobefikarwomen. You can also send in your questions & comments on this and I’ll be sure to pass them on.

Connect

Jiyo Befikar is on:

Facebook: Jiyo Befikar, Jiyo Befikar Women
Twitter: @BajajAllianz
Youtube: jiyobefikar
Blog: Jiyo Befikar Women
Gmail: jiyobefikar@gmail.com


I Wear: Summer Shopaholic

So I went shopping with an old girlfriend. Summer is my favorite season after all. A time for friends, for dressing well and for fun. A day out with N is not a new thing but it’s always fun. Except more than a decade later, we’re doing this in a swanky airconditioned mall instead of dusty, crowded Linking Road or Fashion Street.

I’ve noticed my style is changing. Well, that happens, I am a creature of whim. But this is different. My dress sense is starting to mirror what I feel and think, which is that I’m not a girl, freshly out of adolescence any more. I don’t say that in a rueful tone. I am, in every way, a woman and I don’t feel upto dressing otherwise. So no more frilly, fussy peasant tops for me. Cutting back on the tee-shirts too, they feel too much like I got into my baby clothes by mistake. But when I spotted this piece with Native American prints, I knew I had to make an exception.

I know it is simple, even staid. And I am no longer the kind of skinny that horizontal stripes flatter. Yet, I like it. It doesn’t scream for attention, it doesn’t scratch or tug demanding that I’m constantly conscious I’m wearing it. I put it on and forget about it.

And now here’s something I stole from mum – a pretty, pretty shopping bag that I’ve decided doubles up as a super-sized handbag. I don’t know about you but I *HATE* handing over my bag to a bored security guard outside snooty stores. Brief interlude while I crib. Forcing a customer to dump their bags in a dirty cupboard manned by an indifferent guard is for the store’s convenience, not the customers. I’d rather they spend a little more training their personnel and getting better security measures (CCTVs? Baggage tags?) than harassing the customers with this. End of crib-interlude.

Coming back to the bag that I’m able to carry right in – it’s denim blue with rockstar art. It appeals to the tomboy in me, never mind being all grown-up. And I stop the look from being ‘Sandra-from-Bandra’ in its tracks with my icy-blue moccasins to match (SFBs would wear black heels, don’t you think?).

Jewellery and make-up are bad things to wear when you’re going shopping. After all, you may want to try on stuff. Taking off and putting on is a pain and in this summer heat, even the airconditioned comfort of a mall is just barely enough. So my bag is empty except for a Maybelline Fruit Jelly. I’ve decided I’m not going to buy any more junk jewellery so wearing gold (which I will NOT take off at a store) seems a sensible course.

Before I know it, the bag is full! And yet, it doesn’t bulge like a pillow or wear me down at the shoulders. N and I finish up with lunch and gossip. And in the night, I have a fashion show all by myself in front of the mirror. There’ll be plenty of I Wear posts coming up as I take my new summer wardrobe to town! (1, 2, 3)

I Wear:

  • Native American print top: Rs.499, Shoppers Stop
  • Red flared skirt: ~Rs.600, FabIndia
  • Denim handbag/shopping bag: ~Rs.300, Max
  • Icy-blue moccasins: ~800, Enroute

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

On IdeaSmith and the Idea-smithy

I wrote this on April 12, 2007. It was a private post and nobody read it but me. Why then, am I sharing it here now?

Because lately I’ve been accused of not being passionate about writing, by someone whose opinion matters very much.

Because I find I’m constantly arguing with people who believe anything said in a ‘rational’ monotone trumps ideas expressed with emotion. Remember this when you get to the last sentence. People are talking about this now, but I said it (and more importantly) I felt it five years ago.

Because I’ve watched this blog go from close confidante to a marketable, resume-worthy commodity. The writing has changed, obviously. I just want to remember what it felt like to write this this, for once. Even if it is a rehashed post from the past. Be kind on my heart.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Last week I came back after another failed attempt at blog-icide. Lately blogging has started to feel like a really traumatic relationship that I keep trying to get out of and stumbling back to, out of sheer bad habit. And the identity of IdeaSmith starts to remind me of Frankenstein. Monster-like, gone beyond control and being forced to live up (or down) to this identity…is painful.

I shut out several people who know this blog and me in real life. It hurt too much to be force-fitted into the image of a wise-cracking, emotionless, always sparkling object of entertainment. IdeaSmith is my creation, not all of me. And if I write XXFactor, I also write poetry, sentimental posts about my friends and boring but personal anecdotes about friends and family. Every now and then I get a mail or a comment from a stranger telling me how much they identify with what I say. Those make me smile, for sometime. But last week, feeling this way, I wanted to cry…

Where are all of you? If you know what I’m talking about why do you rip me apart? When people turn up mud-slinging or betting on me like I’m a racehorse, telling me I’m a source of amusement, where are you, then? I’ve spoken for you…you’ve said that so often…why then, do you not speak up for me, when someone forcibly silences me?

I haven’t got any answers to that. But I guess…I can’t stop talking. Not just yet anyway.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I know someone who likes coffee shops so much he says he could spend the rest of his life in one. I found that odd then. But yesterday I spent the evening in my favorite bookshop and I realized I haven’t felt so exhilarated for weeks. Home is where you heal, where you grow, where you get your best view of life. And in that case, I could live in a bookshop for the rest of mine.

I also felt something that felt curiously like….a sense of belonging. I’ve been stumbling about blindly for weeks now, feeling rudderless, like I’m a long way from home. A visit to the bookshop is all it took to ground me. This is my world, my place. Among ideas, words, books. Last week I actually thought I should bury my dream of being a professional writer since…if I couldn’t take people’s reactions to my blog….however would I handle their reactions to a book?

The few people I spoke to all had only one thing to say

Don’t let it matter so much!

Yes, there is such a thing as getting too involved. Caring too much. And yet, how can I not? My beliefs and ideas matter to me. Who I am matters to me. And writing matters to me. Most of all. If I can glow over the bouquets, I have to bleed over the arrows. It is humanely impossible to shut out the detractors as also the indifferent and the vicious.

What makes it possible for me to write, is the fact that I feel. Very much. There’s no more hiding that.

Six months ago, I decided to ease out of complete anonymity. I also started replying to comments, to emails and to messages from strangers who read my blog. I opened up, in essence, a part of my life here. This blog is no more a personal diary. It has become a an open court. You come in, shape my thinking and I turn it into a post.

To everyone who reads my blogs, I’m deeply grateful to you for the time you spend and the direction you give to my thinking. You shape my life in some way as I hope to shape yours with my words. Remember then, that what you read here, no longer remains my property but something that was created by me and you.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Rooh Afza popsicle

….or pepsi-cola as we called it when I was a kid. Delighted that we could make it at home and not have to rely on the whimsical mercies of the adults. Competing to see whose popsicle came out solid and whose was like mush (ice-halwa, still delicious to eat and which we’d shell out 20 bucks for later in college when it was sold as ‘slush’).

I’ve been checking the fridge every hour since last night. (I can hear adult voices from my childhood shouting at me to stop playing in the kitchen). And then, this morning, I took out a slice of my childhood summers.

* Also served at Plain Salted.

Write Click presents ‘Pic it Up’ – Workshop on Visual Blogging

We always knew that a picture could speak a thousand words. Ancient man communicated his first stories down the years with cave paintings. Photography brought the possibility of beautiful pictures even to those who didn’t wield a paintbrush. And the digital boom put a camera in every user’s hand. The internet has made it possible to easily edit and showcase those images. Put a frame, change the hair, add a funny hat – voila, you’ve created art!

If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you know that adding a visual component to your text will take your blog up a few notches. But you don’t have to be Michelangelo or a professional photographer to give your content that extra edge. We believe that pictures are the next big thing on the self-publishing frontier. Write Click presents ‘Pic it Up’ a two-day workshop on the creation and showcasing of visual content.

The Workshop

Pic it Up’ will explore emerging visual blogging tools like photographs, cartoons and drawing. We will look at how to optimize this medium with everyday easy-to-use tools (digital cameras, mobile phone apps etc). And we will also explore how to integrate these into your current blogging activities in a way that will enhance your content and make it more engaging.

Pic it Up: Workshop on Visual Blogging

Date: 12th-13th May 2012
Location: InOrbit Mall, Malad West, Mumbai 400 064.
Number of seats: 20
Fee: Single registration-Rs.3500 ; Group of 3-Rs.9000

Registration will be confirmed on full payment in cash, cheque or online transfer. Entry to the workshop will be on presentation of receipt.

REGISTER

To register, email us with ‘REGISTER FOR PIC IT UP’ in the subject line at:

Ramya Pandyan: ideasmithy@gmail.com
Payal Shah Karwa: thewordjockey@gmail.com

You can also call us at 9870964781.

If you are a member of Gyaanexchange, you can register directly here.

About Us

The Write Click team comprises Ramya Pandyan (Ideasmith), a Blogger/Content Consultant and Payal Shah Karwa (The Word Jockey), a Communications Consultant. Both of us have been keen users and observers of the social content space, since its inception. We each have a corporate background as well as writing experience across different media including social media. Starting with the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2011, we have conducted blogging workshops for various interest groups. ‘Unboggle the Blog’, our workshop on social content has been so popular that it is now a monthly feature. Come join the Write Click community!

CONNECT

Find Write Click on Facebook.
We’re on Twitter as @ideasmithy and @thewordjockey.
Follow the hash tag on #picitup and #writeclick

Blue Frog: Condescending Attitude, Offensive ‘Customer Care’

I haven’t had a reason to write a ‘What Not To Do‘ post in awhile and I wasn’t complaining. But you can always rely on one of the uber-cool, high-priced services to let you down, I suppose.

What Not To Do: Expect Blue Frog‘s security personnel and customer care to respect its customers.

Blue Frog is a hip nightclub in Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel. They have a stage which showcases musical acts (and occasionally other events). There is also restaurant-style seating and a bar. I’ve attended a few gigs before at Blue Frog.

My Friday’s plans sounded interesting. A friend mentioned that Blue Frog was hosting an experimental performance involving music & film. So we decided to catch the show after work. We got there around 9 and lined up for the mandatory bag-checking and security frisking. The security personnel asked to see identity proof. Two of my friends pulled out their company ID cards (a reputed Tata company). I didn’t know these were valid ID proofs till they told me that these had been accepted at airports too. But the security personnel refused to accept them. Here’s how the conversation went thereafter:

Security: These are not valid.

Us: Why not? Airports accept this.

Security: No, these are not valid.

Us: These are company ID cards (with photographs). It means we are employed by them.

Security: We need age proof.

Us: It is illegal to employee minors. Look at the ID card. The fact that this company employs us means that we are over the legal age, right?

At this juncture, another man strode up. He did not identify himself but his demeanor seemed to suggest that he was senior to the two people who had stopped us. He demanded to know what was going on and we explained. Here’s how the conversation went after that.

Him: At what age are you an adult?

Us: Why are you taking that condescending tone with us?

Him: Tell me what is the legal age?

Us: You’re a minor till 18. Legal drinking age is 21.

Him: 21? *snigger* Are you sure?

Us: Look, what’s the problem? Why are you being condescending?

Him: You tell your people to behave.

Us: Let’s take this down a notch. There’s no need to be condescending about it. You’re not making any relevant points. You’re just saying this to look cool.

For some reason, at this juncture we were allowed to go past. The entry fee (not the cover charge) turned out to be Rs.500 a head. This did not seem reasonable to me, especially in light of the unpleasant conversation just before so we walked out.

I tweeted the following,

Here’s what I received in direct messages:

The problem:

  • Blue Frog is a premium nightclub. They showcase musicians and this sets them apart. What they charge is their prerogative. If I think it is not worth my while, I am free to not go. I have no issue with their high prices. But I don’t expect to pay to get insulted.
  • The first problem was with the security norms. It seems odd to me that a service outlet would refuse to accept a document that airports deem valid ID proofs. But I’m willing to see that this is a process they have in place or that their security personnel are not equipped to handle any situations outside the script.
  • The second and bigger problem was the senior security/bouncer’s attitude. I cannot think of a single service situation where condescension is permissible. What was the basis for this?
  • I was quite taken aback by the excessively hostile attitude. My friends and I were asking for something beyond the script. But none of us were drunk (the evening had not even begun!). There wasn’t a single abusive, sexist or otherwise offensive word in what we said. Our voices were not even raised. What justified his saying that I should ‘tell my friends to behave’?
  • It makes no sense to me whatsoever that after this hostility, we were allowed to go through. It sends out the message that security norms are not mandatory procedure but simply ways to bully customers (unless they push back).
  • The last and biggest problem are the tweets. I found the second tweet really offensive. It implies that I’m lying. Why DM me to tell me that? I am not a kid who got into a fight, asking teacher to intervene. The only explanation I can think of for this, is that my tweets provoked them to hit back. (an earlier case where this happened). But if this were true, why ask to meet?
  • The second part of the tweet is equally offensive. Blue Frog and I are not old friends who had a little tiff. The relationship we have is that between a service provider and a customer, a disgruntled one at that. If you let a customer leave the premises dissatisfied, what would their incentive be to return to discuss this? The onus of rectifying a customer’s negative experience lies with the service provider, not with the customer. What’s more, the tone implies a casual invitation (‘to hang out’) rather than an intent to reach out to a dissatisfied customer.

All in all, I’m disappointed by a business that believes it can talk down to its customers (for whatever reason). If you are a service provider, your customer’s questions & demands are not an imposition on your time. It is perfectly fine to not meet some of those demands. That’s just a business situation that is not possible for some reason. Hostility and condescension have no room here.

Customer care is customer care whether it’s for a bank or a ‘cool’, hip brand. Alienating the customer is the first no-no of customer service (in fact, isn’t their very function to resolve issues arising from such badly-handled situations?). I think Blue Frog is also confusing being cool with being a good service. The etiquette for resolving a negative issue don’t really differ. Be polite, be firm and be straight. It is a business situation and formality is an indicator of respect (a must for customer service), not stodginess.

If you don’t believe in paying to be insulted, you’re just going to have to do without Blue Frog.

Blue Frog is on Twitter and Facebook. They also have a website. I’ll update this post if and when there is a relevant response.

‘Unboggle the Blog’ on 28April @InOrbit Mall

I’ve been blogging for eight years now. From having an obscure hobby, to being part of the geekcrowd, to editing to press quotes to being ‘discovered’ by social media professionals and labelled with such words as ‘influencer’, it’s been a long and eventful time. Last year, I had a chance to take it to the next level when Payal asked me to be a part of the ‘Writing for new media‘ workshop that she had put together for the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2011. That day long jamming it up with Moksh and Payal was nothing but pure fun.

Write Click

Payal and I both got wrapped up in other things and it was nearly a year before we managed to get together again. Thus was born Write Click, a series of web writing workshops. We started with a two-session workshop on ‘Social Content for Branding‘ with the Avignyata team.

This was followed by our first for-the-public workshop on general blogging, content creation & community management in February. We had a paltry few registrations till 4 days before the workshop. Then suddenly, calls and emails started flooding in and our ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ had a full house. The response was so overwhelming that we had to repeat the workshop within a fortnight for those who couldn’t be accomodated the first time round. And in March, we took ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ to a slicker, glossier venue at MET college.

We’ve had memorable experiences in each of the workshops. The most inspiring, heart-warming story from our February workshop is that of Amar Jain. This bright, friendly law student emailed us to tell us of his interest. And then he mentioned that he was visually challenged and used screen reading software to navigate the internet. It hadn’t occurred to us before this conversation but Amar reminded us that blogging was free, completely democratic expression for anybody. Not only did Amar attend the first ‘Unboggle the Blog‘, he turned out to be a valuable reference for the legal aspects of content. He was also one of the group leaders in our final exercise.

The next ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ brought us cheer in the form of a participant from Nashik and two others from Pune. We also tightened the format and added a few extra things.

Our last ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ was at MET college and a personal phenomenon for me. From student to alumnus to recruiter to faculty, this event completes a full circle for me as a member of the MET community. Our participants included five faculty members as well as the head of GyaanExchange, which partnered with us for registration.

And I’m happy to announce that this month, we take ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ out of Bandra and into the suburbs. The next ‘Unboggle the Blog‘ workshop will happen on 28th April 2012 at InOrbit Mall, Malad. Our focus right from the start has been to make our workshops fun as well as informative for the participants. This might be a different group from the ones we’ve had an opportunity to be with in past workshops. Conducting the workshop in a mall, and a popular ones at that also opens up a range of possibilities for us, in terms of activities & exercises.

Here are the details of this event:

Unboggle the Blog @InOrbit mall, Malad on 28Apr

As with other media like magazines, newspapers, radio & television, the social media has its own unique personality. A tweet, a status update, a blogpost, an email, a comment or even a shared link have their own code and language. This workshop will look at blog creation & viralling, microblogging, managing conversations and community building. Participants can expect to learn:

  • How to create engaging & sustainable conversations
  • How to manage responses
  • How to initiate and drive conversations
  • How to build communities

Date: Saturday, 28 April 2012
Time: 10AM-6PM
Venue: InOrbit Mall, Link Road, Malad West, Mumbai 400 064
Number of seats: 20
Fee: Single-Rs.2300 ; Group of 3- Rs.6000

Registration will be confirmed on full payment. Entry to the workshop will be on presentation of receipt.

To register, email us with ‘REGISTER FOR UNBOGGLE’ in the subject line at:

Ramya Pandyan: ideasmithy@gmail.com
Payal Shah Karwa: thewordjockey@gmail.com

You can also call us at 9870964781 or sign up through GyaanExchange.

Connect with us!

We are Ramya Pandyan (Ideasmith), writer/blogger and Payal Shah Karwa (The Word Jockey), an independent communications consultant. Both of us have been keen users and observers of this space, since its inception. We each have a corporate background as well as writing experience across different media including social media. Each of us also enjoys good readership on Twitter and our blogs.

We are on Facebook. Follow the hash tag on Twitter: #unboggleblog.
We tweet as @ideasmithy and @thewordjockey.

Our blogs: Ramya Pandyan – The Idea-smithy, XX Factor
Payal Shah Karwa – The Word Jockey

Catch the pictures from our past workshops on Facebook.

Vodafone’s Customer Care On Twitter

A funny thing happened to me after I got back from my Goa trip last week. Vodafone attempted to resolve a complaint that I had tweeted about while there, about poor data services. It was an interesting thing for a service provider to try but their actual delivery fell rather short of expectations, causing an opposite effect. I’ve chronicled this episode on Social Samosa and also detailed the process chain and where the gap lay. Here’s an excerpt:

Vodafone has a definite need to upgrade their complaint handling mechanisms to keep up with new services and evolving usage. Tacking on a Twitter account to their existing call center caused the goof-ups in my case. Vodafone’s call operators definitely need to understand the nuances of data services if they are to handle queries & complaints on them. It’s a serious faux pas if the face (or the voice) of a brand of The Blackberry Boys doesn’t know how the internet works.

Read the full article on Social Samosa: Vodafone’s Customer Care on Twitter.

* Image via David Castillo Dominici on FreeDigitalPhotos

Soap Rehash

Cougar Town is exactly like Sex & the City, except with a divorcee. They dropped Little Miss Muffet but she was probably on her way out anyway. Slut friend-check, over rational friend-check, female ‘jerk-man’ jokes-score!

* Images via Wikipedia

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