Posted in Personal

The Art of Entrepreneurship

I am not the one to let go of opportunities, hence I guess, I qualify to be deemed an entrepreneur. So quickly I re-visited my personal journey in entrepreneurship. It was exposure and networking in my college life that opened to me a whole new world of Entrepreneurship, way beyond being just a “factor of production” along with land, labour and capital, as I can remember from old Economics text books. I used to be a lone female in many such forums, or if there were more women folk among students, we almost always noticed that the female representation among Mentors was almost zero, always!! I did not want to deprive these girls, and decided to be an inspiration.

Velammal Engineering College, Chennai had conducted a 3 day orientation program for their female students from the Entrepreneurship cell, calling out different people or “experts” to come and share 2 hours of wisdom and inspire the youth. March being the “women’s month” saw more focus on the female lot I believe, but I was not very sure if all of Chennai had completely dried up off entrepreneurs or if they were all being busy being felicitated with various “women awards”. Not joking, I find it sad that all “women achievers” are having to run from pillar to post giving talks and receiving awards in March, and then forgotten to be represented for events for an entire year!!

So, as a person who has had zero background on entrepreneurship from my family background and friendships, I had never once till my college days in my wildest dreams seen myself as anything remotely close to being an entrepreneur. Hence my doubts and discomfort with them calling me to inspire young college girls into the surreal world of Entrepreneurship.

After 8 years, 2 failed start-ups of my own, being one of the initial employee at a fairly successful international start-up, co-dreamer of a decently running Indian start-up and co-founding non-profit start-ups, I now place myself as a Serial Socio-preneur. What best than to share my own journey, and let them decide if they got an inspiration or a warning!! Either ways, it would be a genuine lesson.

My aversion to hearing my own voice non-stop for more than 2 minutes and my slot being in the afternoon, right after lunch were the 2 important deciding factors to reduce my content to exactly 8 slides, each containing less than 10 words on average. But thinking back, I used to wonder why a lot of speakers end up repeating the same content that we read about them on internet or while the program host is introducing them. So, I guess, it was clever to not go with long stories.

The session had a workshop format, wherein a lot independant and group activities were designed. Some of them involved writing and speaking too. Their response was a stronger guide than my own presentation deck in delivering the content. But their feedback has been really powerful for me and exceptionally thought provoking. So much that it took me 2 full weeks to process and revel in it before sharing my experience with the rest of the world.

Sharing some of the key feedback from the students and my take away from those –

  1. It was good to know about women entrepreneurs apart from Indira Nooyi and Chanda Kochhar, especially younger women
  2. Connecting dreams and business was a smart and innovative strategy
  3. Interactive sessions are a boon, as we got confident on interacting with the speaker and realizing that we all have some things in common
  4. Deep and sensitive session with real life struggles especially faced only by women. These are so much part of our daily lives that we rarely get to see it separate and thereby find solutions
  5. The importance of taking care of our health, and your special knowledge on menstrual health and work-life balance is such a gem. It also helped us to think boldly about our needs and express them. We could never imagine this topic being presented, and explained really well
  6. So different from other entrepreneurs, we love that you are a Serial Socio-preneur
  7. Even though I am a member of the E-cell, till today I was here for resume points, but from now on I have a goal
  8. Handling societal expectations with dignity and power, we now feel empowered to have these obstacles in our lives
  9. Learned something new and special today – “Ecofeminist”
  10. For the first time in my life I stood up courageously and voiced my opinions, I will never forget this day
  11. I visualized myself in your position, demeanor and speech. I will be there soon. Happy to see so less slides and more practical insights
  12. You were frank, honest and brave. I always wanted to meet such a woman
  13. I love routine, but always feel that there is something missing in me, today I got it
  14. My periods used to make me feel inferior to men, and even some women, but your concepts and demonstrations has given me courage to continue dreaming and working
  15. Your courage to share your failures has given us more than what you think
  16. I used to think that broad-minded people were fake, but now I have the courage to let my mind free to choose its destiny
  17. Stage fright has gone completely, this is so important for me
  18. Understanding our parents role – strengths and weaknesses, was powerful and insightful

It was a closed group of 22 girls, and we had a safe space to interact. All the above feedback are strong and demands much higher levels of responsibility from me. It was easier to keep these in hiding. I am ready to take up on bigger and better challenges now, and I promise to keep upgrading myself. Owning up this, and sharing this on a public platform has been a very difficult task, but I am doing it nevertheless. I was also expecting some criticisms, but I guess that there was so much hope and aspiration at this session. Looking forward to some more challenging sessions!

Hoping for more meaningful engagements in future.

Posted in Travel

Ride to Heaven with Emperors

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Picture Credits – Ganesh Kumar

So, after a long gap of 4 years, we came back to CTC. An accident and relocating out of Chennai, had created this gap. Now that the gap was there, we were not confident of joining another event. Unfamiliar names and faces were making it difficult for us to even register for any event. So we had started with few biking trips on our own since Jan this year. Also, we were limiting ourselves to bike trips, as hubby is not yet ready for a trekking event.

Bike trip to Nilgiris was what we were planning for, and CTC had just that. We forgot our inhibitions and decided to register as soon as the mail arrived in inbox. Both of us were checking mails daily till the confirmation happened. It was pure bliss and lots of learning since then. This was our first group biking trip and we had never rode with any major riding gears till then. I had my first panic attack then. Route map gave me the second. I have to mention the amazing Vikram and Rads aka Radhika from Date a Bike who provided us with some great tips and also rented out their riding gear.

Weekday traffic playing the spoilsport, we could start from Chennai, only after a 2 hour delay, with some yummy dinner to start with. 4 hours drive with stops at tolls ensued. At 1 pm we camped at Ulundurpet toll. Women in tents and men on the tarp. A slow sleeper, I woke up only by 6am. Beds and comfort can never match the serenity of being wild.

Lots of driving, tolls, food, dosa, eggs – kalakki, omlette and half-boiled, with mutton curry, sweating and tiredness, but full enthusiasm on. This was the next few hours till Annur, when Bharani reached to lead the pack. Into the forest we drove, touching Kerala border and being lost in the wonderful sights. A lost baby elephant was the highlight here. We were scared, but nevertheless clicked pictures. By 5pm, after an enticing ride we were at Manjoor. Everytime the bikes stopped, I had to do my sit-ups, and hubby, Ajith, had to distribute snacks. Balaji, our organiser was going cranky that we were obsessed with photos, and never letting him stick to planned schedules. Madhu and Ganesh, the lovely couple with their fresh love and charm was good fun to be. And the boys, Vikki, Karthik, Kannan, all were a riot. As always bonding in CTC happens like a miracle. Camping was becoming difficult as the officer who usually grants permission was on leave, but our lovely Jatin, manged to get us a safe, cool spot, near a tea factory just with a few calls.

Nature’s call is always a difficulty for women, but it also opened up more opportunities. Madhu and I went and asked few young girls if they could let us use a toilet at their home. After a minute of deliberation, they not only let us use their toilet, but also gave us warm snacks and tea. All the men missed it. They also told us about Baduga, their local dialect, native to the Nilgiris, which is a mix of Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.

Night was pretty cold, and Vighnesh in his dhoti was a miracle. Most of us used our riding gears and sleeping bags. Still can;t believe it now, while sweating and writing this in sultry Chennai. Early morning itself we left for Ooty, a full day of beautiful landscapes, scary off-roading, cool pictures and more food and fun. Roadside shops with their yummy local cuisine is the best part always. Downside of the trip was that we never shopped those juicy carrots or the yummy beets. We met old CTCians Ankit and Aditi, who were waiting for us near Masinagudi, and enjoy the rest of Nilgiris. More fun and photos, through the beautiful Mudumalai-Masinagudi Tiger reserve. We saw only sambhars and lion tailed macaques. Night camping at Kothagiri, and with a surprise visit from Shiva and friends. Early morning couple pics were the highlight with three couples. The ride back was the most overwhelming, leaving the place, last few hairpin bends and changing temperatures. Cannot forget it.

We clicked final selfies and exchanged goodbyes at Chengalpettu before Mani, our wonderful accountant settled accounts; can’t believe that we had so much fun, at so less price. The whole group donated 1000 rupees to Ainthinai, the plantation wing of CTC. Myself and Ajith said final goodbyes to Karthik and Murali after Kelambakkam. Special thanks to Murali for being the amazing rider ahead us. Learned so much, and we became real fans of his driving skill.

With more dreams and hopes, waiting for another CTC trip.

More fun here; with the creativity of Madhu, Mani, Vikki and Ganesh

Posted in Movies

When PREMAM thulped, but OSO failed

I have ranted a lot on my love and hatred for films a lot on phones and in person. Finally, after being serious about movies for around 5 years, I am finally writing and sharing my opinion on movies, on internet, where everything can be permanent.

Following the media and general public hype that Om Shanthi Oshana (OSO) is the ultimate female-centric movie of modern times, I watched it in theatre, not wanting to wait for it to come on TV. Felt good here and there. I always love the kind of dads that Renji Panikker and Lalu Alex represents. Liked the small fights and fun between bro-sis pair (Nazriya and Aju), few idiosyncrasies that Pooja (Nazriya’s character) had, but feel that they were made too general and unnecessarily trying to be cute. Except for the last scene where Nivin shows her the old umbrella keychain, adds a seat to his bike, and takes her to her home, there was no other romance, befitting the long wait and expectation on Pooja’s part.

OSO forced the girl  to hold onto her childhood crush, and fantasize that it would be a lifetime love for her. It is equating women to men, where we see images of men, just relentlessly loving a girl. Picture it this way: there is a boy who has a crush on a girl, at first sight, and feels in love with her, ignoring whether she loves him back or not, and wants to be with her forever, just because he has waited for her for long and helped her potential husband elope with somebody else, and thereby making his own path clear. Had this story line been told, we would have outright called it perverted. OSO also had added to it some inter-religion flavour, but made it totally easy, buy making Renji Panikker the dad and threw in secular notions too. Had it been told in the male narrative, we would have easily blamed it for the increasing instances on propaganda by religious institutions about ‘love jihad’ (another unnecessary topic).

Thus, the director changed the narrative to a girl protagonist, gave her voice (literally and figuratively) added in a veil of secularism, stirred in the feel-good charm of rustic beauty and communism, humour, and roped in safe commercial elements such as affluent doctor’s family, college lecturer who only cooks and looks confused, educated and well-groomed heroine, suffiecient dose of temple and church.

I have reserved my most favourite element: Vineeth Sreenivasan. According to me, he is ordinary delivering the best. Few scenes with him and Nazriya were genuine, and not forcefully feminist. There, I rest my case, OSO.

PREMAM… It came with a bang, but for the male audience. There was so much bromance and male exalting that made me think that I could easily give it a miss. Unfortunately, hubby got a CD version that I agreed to watch on a tired menstruating day. I could focus only on what irritated me and did not even complete watching it.

Many months later, on a bored afternoon, I decided to watch Premam on Hotstar. And this time, I was not expecting anything. Few minutes into the movie, I realized that it was a hit among men because the depiction was real, from a male perspective.

  • The first major attraction point, Mary, has no straightened or permed hair, no unrealistic body/attitude image stuck to her.
  • Just a normal girl, who feels elated to see too many people attracted to her, but also very cautious in her interactions with them.
  • Mary rejecting George, just makes him sad; he tries to identify ‘why’, but does not plot to revenge her rejection and George learns to move on in life.

Cut the bromance to college time heroism

  • The elder heroine do not look purposefully old or young; has her pimples and a non-conventional voice
  • No use of term ‘chetta’ to give legitimacy to Malar-George relation
  • Heroine has her needs, space and authority (totally wish that this could have been done with a same age or younger heroine premise too)
  • Heroine exits, George is sad, but no, he doesn’t come with any proof of their love, not just to her family, but nothing is ever brought to the screen

Life needs to move on; and we see the responsible George, sans beard or spectacles

  • Young girl who crushed on George as a kid, warms up to him, as she still feels the same attraction to him
  • Though she’s in an abusive relation and takes time and effort to save herself from more horrors, she does it.
  • Even her dad supports her, in spite of risk of social ostracisation

Lot of focus on bromance, but never have the director put in scenes to degrade femininity or depict forceful domination, and/or objectification of women.

Final Verdict: OSO had patriarchy made virtuous by some fake display of feminism, but PREMAM had feminism sold through bromance