Tag Archives: Kiran Manral

Stage Fright And A Lily

I found gratitude in February. Here are all things that were life last month.

A conversation on safe spaces – One of Mumbai’s performance/art spaces and Shamir’s former employer hosted a discussion on safety in performing spaces. We shared experiences, fears, ideas and some hopes for this landscape that we are all committed to.

SXArena: The Third Wheel, UnValentined! and Digital Dil – We decided to try a new format that included poetry, conversations and some simple games to explore ideas of sexuality and gender. The topics of our day were polyamory, relationships outside the primary romantic one, love in the times of hookup and connections beyond the commerce.

The SXonomics Show: Touch Me Not – We were invited to conduct a gender sensitisation drive for The Habitat. We rolled this out as a series of 1 hour shows that combine comedy, satire, music, poetry and dramatic performance to address hard questions. Our first show addressed sexual harassment. It received a good response and this very encouraging review. We have since done one more show on gender (im)balance and have another four coming up (every alternate Monday at The Habitat, 7:30PM).

We, The XX Chromosome: Women’s Web and SheThePeople hosted a two day Women Writers’ Festival 2018 and invited us to do a show themed ‘We, The XX Chromosome’. Our 45 minute performance addressed gender stereotyping, the casting couch, rape culture, outdated fairytales and consent violation.

I started a new friendship and that person came to one of our events just as a show of support. Their presence and their ideas expanded our world view on gender, sexuality and love.

I wasn’t nearly as good at the old friendships. I think after 2017, I found it hard to remember that there were still people who liked me and wanted to spend some moments of their lives with me. But friendliness came knocking in gentle, sweet ways. I went to another old friend’s birthday party without a gift because I had just had no time to get one. But on the way, I stopped and picked up a lily because it reminded me of her. She thanked me so many times, I felt bad that I had categorised our friendship as needing the commercial validation of a store-bought gift. And yesterday she told me that the flower had continued to bloom and spread its fragrance all across her house. This is so lovely.

We were featured in the press several times (1, 2, 3, 4). Ironically right after I posted this poem:

Let me just say life is mischievous at times. 😋

There are days when I fear getting carried away and that this will all crash land. I do love how much I’m learning, though. After a recent show, a member of the audience told us that she had seen one of our early performances and we had come a long way from that. That just feels so, so, so very good.

Every now and then, Ishmeet says or does something on stage and I marvel at how a mind can work and how a gesture or a facial expression can be used to convey an idea. It’s like learning a new language and I’ve always enjoyed that.

I am still awkward in my transitions on and off stage. But stage fright does not cripple me as badly now. I’m learning to enjoy even the mistakes I make, laugh at the times I am clumsy. And that’s the same lesson as life itself, isn’t it? Look up at the stars but also find time to laugh when you trip over the stones. And always, make room for the flowers.

Here’s a handful of SXonomics laughs coming your way. This is our first video.

What does the future hold? Well, Aadhar card linkages and income tax returns. But also four new SXonomics shows, SX-on-Mics (our first community event on Women’s Day) and more videos. And a lily or two.


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.

Gillette Soldier for Women – Regressive & In Poor Taste

This ad by Gillette has been on TV for awhile now.

It started off with the intriguing ‘Soldiers wanted’. The build-up was great. And when it ended, I was groaning. Really now? We need to recruit men into ‘supporting women’? Like it’s a cool thing to do, not the have-to thing to do.

Worse, my overriding impression is that this is such a desperate attempt to cash in on all the hoopla around the Nirbhaya Delhi gangrape case. Very, very poor taste indeed. I mean, everyone and their sister and brother has felt the need to outrage and say something. Granted the numbers may have given this incident the required nation-wide attention that was long overdue. And admittedly the reportage on violence-against-women cases has snowballed because this news is hot, but what the hell, it’s getting people’s attention. I’m willing to be the realistic cynic in all of this. But hang a brand logo on that and attempt to ‘own’ the idea from a marketing standpoint and I’m sorry – you’ve alienated me.

Kiran Manral has a Facebook discussion going on this where she says,

“My issue is the throwing back of the debate into the ‘women to be protected by men’ category.”

Yes, that’s a valid thought. But it’s a whole other discussion that I’d get into if this were a short film or a Public Awareness video instead of a damn ad commercial.Atrociously poor form, Gillette.

* Also posted at XX Factor.

How Social Media Helped ‘The Reluctant Detective’

There’s plenty of talk about marketing various products and services through social media. I thought Kiran Manral did something interesting, generating interest for her debut novel, ‘The Reluctant Detective’. Besides the obvious tweeting about it, she also engaged with readers, other writers and organized a number of different events that a social media professional would recognize as astute blogger outreach programs.

I had a chance to chronicle Kiran’s case in my article for Social Samosa:

“Not content with just social media conversations, Kiran also decided to add an offline aspect to her online efforts too. So she focused on driving conversations and creating experiences to generate further conversations. She says, “I’ve realised that it is not enough to talk about your book via social media or book reviews, people actually enjoy seeing, meeting and interacting with an author and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Read the full article on Social Samosa here.

I Wear: Elephants = Fashion + Fusion

My February began in a flurry of closet confusion. I had happily RSVPed to Kiran Manral’s book/beauty event for ‘The Reluctant Detective‘ at Biguine, Bandra. I had a long meeting coming up, to plan my own event highlight of the month. And in the evening, I was due across town for The Bombay Store’s ‘India Haat‘. What to wear to such diverse settings? My wardrobe agonizing would’ve done Kay Mehra (‘The Reluctant Detective‘s protagonist) proud.

It wasn’t a cool day so that put paid to any plans of turquoise double-breasted jackets, funky nylon leggings or oversized sweaters. I finally went along with a mix of both events – a slinky top that I’d normally wear to a party and a block-printed cotton skirt that I usually build into ‘ethnic’ looks.

My first thought was to theme my look with camels (in honour of the Rajasthan focus of India Haat) but I couldn’t find anything in my wardrobe. I spent the briefest of moments wondering about other animal iconography from the desert state and settled on elephants instead. (Imagine my surprise when I discovered India Haat had more elephants than camels!).

Here are all the textures & colours that I wore:

The top is a plain black wrap with texturing in the form of sheer fabric stripes.The skirt is an ankle-length, flowy wraparound in white with black blockprints of elephants and flowers. I knotted a silk scarf with black & white bandhini prints, on my handbag.

The look still felt too stark for a colourful theme like Rajasthan so I added interest with these accessories:

The earrings are tiny silver studs shaped like elephants. The silver pendant depicts an elephant too and is strung on a thin silver chain. The ring and bangle are both green & red wood (matching the pendant and bag). With these, I didn’t need much more make-up than a swish of eyepencil and a touch of red-brown lipstick.

I Wear:

  • Black & sheer wrap top: Lokhandwala market
  • Black & white wraparound cotton skirt: Lokhandwala market
  • Black leather boots: Shop next to KFC, Linking Road, Bandra
  • Silver elephant stud earrings: Cottage Emporium, Delhi
  • Silver elephant pendant: FabIndia
  • Silver chain: Local silver shop
  • Green & red square wooden ring: FabIndia
  • Green wooden bangle: FabIndia
  • Red handbag: Baggit
  • Steel watch: Casio

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

‘The Reluctant Detective’ By Kiran Manral: ChickLit With A Twist

My weekend reading was ‘The Reluctant Detective‘, first novel by fellow-blogger Kiran Manral. Just as well, since it proved to be a hectic few days leading upto & culminating in the boy’s birthday, leaving me no time for heavy reading. This book was light and easily read in the short intervals that I managed to catch between organizing parties, shopping for gifts & tending to the social commitments of a busy weekend.

The Reluctant Detective‘ is the story of Kanan Mehra (a.k.a. Kay), a privileged suburban housewife, into whose pampered life comes excitement in the form of a double murder in the neighborhood. Kay is loosely linked to both cases, being the last to have seen the first victim alive, and the one to discover the body of the second, both on the same day. Her daily life of beauty treatments, fashion fanaticism, kitty parties and housewifely gossip, have her ill-prepared to deal with the ramifications of these events. She blunders through having to face gore for the first time in her comfortable life and rubs uneasy shoulders with such strange people as detectives & policemen.

The title notwithstanding, the story has very little to do with her actual solving of the cases. Instead, it builds on the response from Kay’s world, right from a sudden fear of taking morning walks alone, SoBo acquaintances dismissal of the suburbs, parental paranoia & automatic restriction, gossip sagas where maidservants gain starring roles and the revival of old-but-incompatible friendships.

There is a lot of focus on Kay’s wardrobe, her battle with the bulge and domestic adventures of the maternal, spousal & housekeeping sort. Thus the setting & tone give the book a Chick Lit feel, albeit with a heroine of a different demographic (slightly older, happily married with kids, no money/career concerns etc). Don’t expect a cloak-and-dagger adventure, all ye mystery lovers. On the other hand, if you enjoy Chick Lit and wouldn’t mind trying out something other than the usual ‘single girl-gay friend-bad boyfriends-alcohol & chocolates-BFFs’ formula, ‘The Reluctant Detective‘ will give you some pleasant, easy reading.

Here’s a promo of the book:

The blurb reads:

Kay, a.k.a. Kanan Mehra, is a thirty-something suburban housewife and young mother with a penchant for sticking her curious nose into things she definitely, absolutely and certainly shouldn’t go near. When a couple of corpses turn up in quick succession in her neighbourhood, she teams up with her detective friend, Runa, in a half-hearted attempt to find the murderers, only to suspect that perhaps the detective business doesn’t quite become her. A hilarious account of how not to get involved in other people’s murders, The Reluctant Detective is the story of every school-gate mom, searching for a purpose in her life that goes beyond kitty lunches, shopping and fish pedicures.

The Reluctant Detective‘ by Kiran Manral has been published by Westland & priced at Rs.195/-.

Ideamarked Dec2011: Calvin & Hobbes, Mother Teresa & Social Samosa

December is always a busy month, what with friends & family flying in from out of the country, parties, events and meets. Everyone is in a festive mood and the weather is lovely even in Mumbai.

My best friend who moved to another continent last year, visited. Other regulars made their annual trips. I’ve attending all manner of events, from tweet-ups, to weddings to movie premiers to dance workshops. I also managed to catch a few interesting things online. A new assignment came my way, via SocialSamosa, a one-stop shop for information on the Indian social media. Twitter called telecom minister, Kapil Sibal an idiot and boosted an insofar little known Tamil actor to fame with Kolaveri Da. It’s been a fun end to an eventful year.

  • Why This Kolaveri Da: Reply Cover-Female Version‘ (via Youtube, link courtesy SangitaBhargavi)
  • Why Guest Posting Is Such A Good Idea‘: I’ve been a guest-blogger at other sites myself. And in the past few months, XX Factor has welcomed guest contributors. Here’s why it works so well. (via FamousBloggers)
  • ”Social Networking: How Communities Were Built: (via SocialSamosa)
  • ‘Kapil Sibal & The C-word’: My take on the phenomenon that made our telecom minister trend on Twitter. (via SocialSamosa)
  • Whats goin’ on‘: This video should make us all wonder if we ever bullied someone more than we needed to. (via Youtube, link courtesy AshwiniMishra)
  • Mommie Dearest: The fanatic, fraudulent Mother Teresa‘: Watching idols crumble is always a difficult experience…and a valuable one for the inquiring mind. I don’t know how much of this is fact but it does open up the field for inquiry where there was only blind belief before. (via Slate, link courtesy KiranManral)
  • An Untold Tale‘: I loved this poem for the first two lines: “We each have our story to tell
    A part narrated by others” (via PreetiS)
  • A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas‘: Fans of Calvin and Hobbes, remember his winter sculptures? Here’s a hilarious video that recreates many of them to the tune of ‘Winter Wonderland’! (via YouTube, link courtesy Betty Confidential)
  • The Creation & Consumption Of Content‘ (via Social Samosa)

* Images via Wikipedia

You can catch the links as they come in and even post your own to The Idea-smithy Facebook Page.


Quoted In Sunday Mid-Day Story – ‘Why Men Won’t Let Women Speak’

Yesterday’s Sunday Mid-Day (20 November 2011) carried a story titled ‘Why Men Won’t Let Women Speak‘ by Soumya Rajaram. It was a 2-page feature on the phenomenon of women being unfairly (and harshly) targetted online for verbal assaults. The Twitter tag #Mencallmethings was referenced as was #LadiesWeWantAnswers issue (which I’d blogged about here).

I was quoted and the other recognizable names in the story were Kiran Manral, Harini Calamur, Janaki Ghatpande and The Mad Momma.

Here’s an excerpt of what I said,

“Women are at risk in the real world too, and yet we manage to travel,work and live reasonably safe lives. There are laws to protect us and there is a social structure in place; it tells you what’s permissible and what’s not. Whatever safety and freedom we enjoy, comes because we all recognise this structure. I’m hoping that the Internet will follow the same principle. This will be hastened if there are tangible measures attached to curb online harassment.”

Read the full article on the Mid-Day site. Here’s the epaper clipping:

Update: The best friend brought it to my notice that a preview of this article appeared in the Saturday Mid-day edition on 19 November 2011, with my picture in it. This appears to have been an even bigger story than I first thought.

The Lavasa Chronicles: A Mixed Bag

This is going to be an off-the-top-of-my-head post just jotting down sundry thoughts from my experience. A number of more detailed posts will follow this and I’ll link-update them as they come up.



I’m just back from the Lavasa Women’s Drive weekend. Over 250 participants from Mumbai and 150-odd from Pune competed in this rally to Lavasa. The event was a speed-time-distance based one with specific goals on each of these, for the participants. The rally flagged off on Sunday, 27 February 2011 from Bandra Reclamation. Each participating vehicle was started off with a minute’s interval from the previous, starting at 7.00 a.m. I was invited to ride along with the Windchimes team to cover the event and review the Lavasa experience over two days.

The other bloggers were Anu, Pushpa, Nisha, Kiran and Monika (specially in from Bangalore for this event). Shakti also joined us on the drive down to Lavasa but had to return almost immediately after we got there. Meeta was also spotted at Lavasa, from the Pune leg of the rally but she was there as a rally participant and not with the blogger team.

The drive took around six hours, counting the hour that spent at the breakfast stop on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Put a bunch of bloggers together and expect that they’ll talk. Make it an exclusively women bunch and you know there’s going to be no dearth of chatter. The waiters probably never heard so many human voices at one time, which may explain why they served us an incomplete order and worst of all, coffee with sour milk that made poor Kiran sick.

The car Shakti and I were in also stopped for a general look-see at the dam on the way. It’s something I’m used to doing from my childhood travels with dad and mum who counted these pitstops as an integral part of the journey. However, I have to say there doesn’t seem to be much that’s appealing by way of scenery, or perhaps it’s just the season we’re in. Most of the landscape looks barren and dry.

As we neared Lavasa however, it started to change a bit with sporadic bursts of colour, which we realised were flowers and shrubs planted by the Lavasa landscaping group. Maybe it’s just me but I’m not sure that I count hay-coloured rocky terrain dotted with violently pink bougainvillas as ‘beautiful’. The contrast seems jarring somehow, like a supermodel walking in a desert. Umm, perhaps that worked for Lisa Ray in a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan video but seeing it in real life, didn’t do it for me.

Still, as we neared Lavasa, there was a distinct change in the scenery. Visitors are greeted by a series of concrete pillars all adorned by gaily coloured butterfly and ladybird statuettes, which strangely enough are quite cheerful. Round the corners and suddenly you’re in a superclean, toytown with well-laid out roads, scenic buildings and a shimmering body of water in the distance. If the weather didn’t remind one of the tropical climes, you’d think you were in Europe. All around us rally participants milled around, resplendent in their costumes and Lavasa chic. I felt woefully out of place in my shabby travelling gear (and here’s what I did to compensate).

The Waterfront Shaw is a hotel right on the promenade over the said body of water. It’s flanked on either side by various eating joints including an English pub, an American Diner, Chor Bizarre and Oriental Octopus. The last is what we picked for our first meal at Lavasa. I’m afraid to say that our first taste of Lavasa food and service was regrettably less than satisfactory. The serving staff had the genteel air of condescension that one would expect at a 7-star hotel but without any of the accompanying service. Witness the following conversation:

Shakti: (reading from menu) I’d like the Pan fried Basa, please?

Waitress: Pasta? We don’t serve pasta. *sniff*

I skipped the soup in favor of Chicken Satay, usually a hot favorite with me. Woefully, it arrived as a frightening mess of yellow chunky gunk over tough meat pieces. It wasn’t wholly inedible as I don’t really mind peanut pieces but that’s not really how Satay is made, is it? Also, I think we’d have been a lot more forgiving had our reception been friendlier.

The vegetables arrived well ahead of the rice, so much so that we had devoured them by the time someone remembered to serve us the rice. And then we were served two bowls of rice in place of one.

All in all, the only saving grace in the entire meal was the Elanir drink, a mocktail of coconut water and pineapple juice. Even so, the waitress would have to put a zinger on it with her sneer at my excitement.

Me: Wow, that’s actually yella-neer, as in coconut water in Tamil!

Waitress: It’s Elanir, ma’am. *mother of all sniffs*

We were told later that the Oriental Octopus had only set up shop a week ago, which could explain the teething troubles they had in the kitchen. However, good customer service can and should start from day one. After all, how much training and experience does it require to be nice to people? Such a pity then, so much would have been forgiven had we just been served with a smile and a friendly word instead of all that sniffing.

Post lunch, though the evening looked a lot more promising. After dumping our things in our rooms, Anu and I headed out to catch the last of the music performances by Shibani Kashyap and SQS  Supastars. Side attractions included temporary tattoo artists and hair braiding stalls. I’ve never seen so many women let themselves run free. They danced, they cheered and jeered, they human-trained across the entire shamiana. It was a fitting end to the adrenalin rush of the rally.

That evening we were left to our own devices and fortunately for everyone, the blogger bunch all got along like a house on fire. We ended up walking around the promenade, shooting new display pics for our Facebook
profiles, watching the tourists and sampling curious delights like Chipstix. We turned in early after a light and very satisfying meal at Chor Bizarre, an Indian restaurant decorated with British Raj period antiques.

The plan was to get a good night’s rest before getting up for the promised 6a.m. nature trail, boating, extreme sports by Xthrill (if possible), a visit to Crystal House (a school for the labour force of Lavasa) and Bamboosa. Would you believe, we were all up and raring to go by 5:45 a.m.? Only, umm, who was taking us? None of the organizing team were to be seen. The bloggerati snuck in a photo or two between fighting off the affections of the numerous stray dogs and wondered what why we were up so early in a strange place. But Biswajit Dey saved the day. Within an hour, taxis had been arranged and we were ferried to Ekant, another hotel resort higher up the Lavasa heights.

We managed to get a good few pictures, of the panoramic view of the valley, the sunrise (always magnificent anywhere in the world) and the nature trail. Then we had tea with the friendly owner with the scenic view for company. We headed back to The Waterfront Shaw and ended at the American Diner for breakfast (where I had a dream omelette al fresco). The organizers team emerged around 10, by which time the bloggers were done with breakfast and were idly sitting around on the promenade. As it turned out, none of the promised plans actually materialized and we would spend another hour and a half exploring every inch of the same promenade again.

With only a couple of hours to go before leaving, the only thing left to do was Bamboosa, the Lavasa factory for bamboo handicrafts and products. This factory not only employs the local labourers but also includes a crèche facility for their children. The Crystal House (which we didn’t have time to see) brings a high standard of education to their children. I was told that this year’s graduating batch has four admits to Stanford.

We left Lavasa at 1:30 after a quick lunch at American Diner, the bloggers all in one car. And that’s when the treacherousness of the Lavasa access road hit us. Not belying the landscaped horizons, the road itself is very steep and has multiple sharp turns. Nisha was the first to pour her guts out onto the side of the road. Anu followed soon enough and to my big surprise, so did I. I don’t think it had to do with bad driving or food. Apparently the road down from Lavasa is indeed a difficult one, which takes its toll on the strongest of stomachs.

I was quite disappointed at not being able to catch any of the events on the promised schedule. What’s more, being up at 5 a.m. and waiting around for five hours and then cramming the lowest priority item into the last hour is not fun for anyone. It didn’t seem very respectful of our time and our presence at the event. I’m not sure whether it was miscommunication or mismanagement but I’m not about to get into that.

The company of all the bloggers I met more than made up for the organizers’ glitches. The ride back (synchronized puking notwithstanding) was delightful. We talked about parenting (Kiran, Monika and Anu are all parents and mommy-bloggers), travel, blogging, people we all knew in common, trolls and how to deal with them and all manner of delightful things that are so close to a blogger’s heart.


Other accounts of the event:

More at The Idea-smithy: The Lavasa Chronicles

Anu: Lavasa Trip, EkantNature TrailFood Memories

Kiran: Lavasa Trip and More

Nisha: Lavasa articles

Sakshi: Babes, bonding, bravado

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