Tag Archives: blogging

Teaching my teen to clean the kitchen

Okay, so this is part of my 500 words a day commitment, as part of my new year plan to develop the writing habit. I have tried it last month with another encouraging writer, but did not manage to write every day. So here I am trying again. I love writing, I love the way it lets me solves puzzles and issues using words. I love the fact that I can use words to reach out to others and make a difference to someone, but after my initial efforts, my enthusiasm peters out and I get caught up doing some routine work and not writing.

But what the heck! Here I am, back again, working on developing my daily writing habit over the next 31 days.

So today, I am going to crib a bit about how I am just so tired of having to clean up the kitchen every night. I am a working woman, live with my two boys, my hubby and my amazing amazing in-laws who literally hold our home together. And at the end of each day, after dinner, while the boys (the big one and the two little ones) watch TV, I have to drag myself to the kitchen and clean it up! Trust me, it is quite a task, we are a large, kind of a messy family and it takes me almost 45 minutes each night just to clean up the kitchen platform and put things back into their places.

There are times when the chore really gets to me and I pull in my teenage son to pitch in, and to be fair to him, he can really get the granite on the kitchen top to shine and get everything organized. But kids being kids will do this kind of work only for a day or so, once in a while; you can’t actually get them to do it on a regular basis.

And I can’t help but wonder why this happens. I mean, look at the teens that we have growing up around us these days: they have a tremendous amount of exposure, are well read, intelligent, but it is very difficult for us to get them to contribute usefully in a family or community. Anything you ask them to do will be done with enthusiasm till it has novelty value. Beyond that, they will quietly escape the responsibility. So what is it that makes teens behave like this today?

You can look back at history and find that till about 60-70 years ago, typically by the time a young man was in his teens, he would be employed as an apprentice with some master craftsmen, or artist, or in a family trade; in the hope of learning some skill or trade that would enable him to earn a living.

What are our teenagers today doing? They are very busy putting up selfies on social media, commenting, connecting, watching videos that someone else is making… and the academically oriented ones are busy cramming for some entrance exam. Does this make them ready to take on the real world? Of course there are those who question everything and challenge the establishment at every step, and one assumes this is where the new thinking will come from. But in my personal experience, merely thinking about something is not good enough, a very important aspect of learning is applying your knowledge and execution of what you have learnt. With most of the learning being essentially theoretical, there is a distinct gap when things come to execution and application.

As the mother of a teenager, my constant effort is to get him to ‘do’ something and not merely think about what needs to be done. And learning a skill, any skill in my opinion is a very important part of one’s growth process. With ideas available everywhere, today ideas are valued lesser and lesser unless you are able to make these ideas happen. Making ideas happen needs skills: any skill, you could be a computer operator and you could make an idea happen, or you could be a fashion designer and make ideas happen. But if the only skill you have is putting stuff up on social media, you are not going to get far. For even on social media, what gets shared is unique, original content. That is what Google is looking for. So to be a success even on social media, you need the ability to create and develop content – have skill that you can put to use.

This is what stays at the top of my mind as I see my son work away, cleaning the kitchen top on the few nights that he agrees to help me out. I hope that as he does the work with his hands, he is learning a skill or two, something he may be able to apply to his daily life, at school or at play. That is what I as a parent hope to impart to my teen, as he prepares to step out into today’s highly competitive world. What are you doing as a parent to get your teen ready for the future? Please share!

~ Bharti Athray

 

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Why men should be writing a journal

It makes you a better person, you get to complete your thoughts, and you will lead a more meaningful life.

In my personal experience, I have found journal writing as an acceptable trait amongst women; but very few men I know actually write journals. As I work with this topic of journal writing, and its many benefits to me as an individual, I began to wonder why men do not write journals as frequently as women do?

This realization was a surprise to me as some of my earliest inspiration for journal writing came from men who made it a life habit to write diaries and journals, namely Thomas Jefferson, Issac Newton, John D Rockefeller … these are some of my favourite journal keepers and I can read about their journal writing habits over and over again. And the more I read, the more it appears that these men used their journal to record their habits, ideas and responses to the world around them, and over the years used these records to better themselves.

So this brings me back to my current question: why are men not writing journals as much as they used to? Possible answers: Too busy, nothing to say, nothing to write, no time, I am too tired to write by the time I get home… the reasons are endless. But in my opinion, journal writing is a process that forces you to introspect.

Does your work often leave you with a thousand voices in your head, each one telling you to do a different thing? Are you sometimes over-awed by the amount of work piled on your table, unable to decide where to start? Is the internet pushing too much information towards you and pushing your brain towards overload? Well, journal writing can help.

I know this sounds like I am coming up with a single solution, no matter what your problem, but it is not really that. The fact is there are different kinds of journals you can keep – some for your secret thoughts, others for your goals and plans, yet one may be just a record of the people you have met and found something interesting about… to name but a few.

If you have never had a journal, I urge you to get one. It does not have to be fancy and expensive, just get something you are comfortable with and something you feel nice holding in your hands. Initially you may find it difficult to decide what to write, and you may want to start with just putting down the thoughts that float around in your head.

If after the first couple of days, you run out of thoughts, you can try opinions, or issues that are bothering you, you can pen down your thoughts on issues impacting your neighbourhood, city or even the world. Sure, you may ask ‘what is the use?’ But do it all the same. You see, when you begin to write something down, your mind begins to solve a puzzle. The points you put down will surprise you… don’t worry about making sense, and writing in your best English. You just need to put your thoughts down, that is all.

Do this often enough and you will find yourself feeling lighter, because you have shared your innermost thoughts and feelings with your journal. You will find it easier to deal with the world outside. You don’t always have to be the tough guy, it’s ok to get upset and rant a bit.

And for those idea seekers amongst you, your journal is a great way to keep track of your many ideas that pop up in your mind all day long. Capture them, pen them down and come back to your thoughts days, weeks or even years later. Your ideas will still be there for you to access.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to keep a journal, a book by your bed, that it would be a sad thing if you did not make the time to write your thoughts down. Each of us is unique and has his own perspective on life. The myriad ways of looking at a situation is what makes our lives richer. So join the tribe of journal writers, and celebrate your uniqueness by penning it down for posterity!

~ bharti athray

Image source: http://www.daan-mag.com/index.php/2016/03/10/the-mind-journal/

BEING IN THE NOW

The night was still young, the errant crackers from somewhere faraway still continued to burst in the Diwali sky. I looked at my watch: 2.25 am. I had overhead someone earlier in the evening mention that 10.30 pm was the curfew time for crackers this year. Obviously the message had not gotten around enough.

I sat in the dark of my bedroom, my little boy fast asleep behind me. I sat at the edge of the bed, looking through the glass window and the iron railings beyond it. The fireworks would light up the dark sky and then within seconds it would be dark again. I sat listening to my son’s breath, sometimes light, something a little drawn. The smoke of the crackers had given him a congestion.

As I listened, I slowly began to notice another sound of breathing. I dared not move, because I was afraid I would lose it. As I focused, I realized it was my breath, gently going in and coming out. I sat still, this was one of the few moments I was in the ‘Now’. I wanted it to last forever.

In a while, I began to feel my nerve throbbing at my temple. I watched silently, it had been so long since I had experienced this stillness. The lights in the house on the other side of the road sparkled and twinkled, and I wondered if the throbbing at my temple was keeping pace with the flickering lights.

At last, I heaved a sigh, and lost the throbbing. I could not feel it anymore. My heart beat in my chest and I wondered at the peace that the night full of fireworks had brought. May be the coming year would let me find the stillness more often. I mulled over my routine, wondering how often I could afford to stay up so late and find myself. Just as I tried to sort through the jumble of my mind, another rocket swooshed into the sky at a distance, and burst into 5 different coloured flames. It was a beautiful sight, and I worried about the smoke. The spell was broken, the moment had passed. I was still no more.

~ bharti athray

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

Listen to any of the talks on creative writing and this is one question that successful writers tell you to find an answer to, repeatedly.

So after a fair amount of introspecting, here is what I came up with.

  1. I write because I can.
  2. I write because I enjoy writing, I have done it ever since I can remember.
  3. I write because it’s the only way I know to get my chattering mind to shut up.
  4. I write because it lets me have a dialogue with all the multiple voices inside my head, and listen to all their perspectives. That’s a little difficult to do when all I am doing is listening.
  5. I write because it allows me to create something from my thoughts, it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  6. I write to share, to reach out to others who also enjoy writing and reading.
  7. When I write, it is a call I send out to the universe – my silent SOS message – to reach out to others like me.
  8. I write when I feel sorry, when I feel something is not right with the world. I tend to write better when things are not as they should be. Unfortunately, that means I need to be sad or morose when I write.
  9. I write because I am upset with the world and have no other way of expressing my anger, my despair, my hurt.
  10. And at times, I write. Just like that.

Why do you write, what are your reasons? Do share.

Remembering Leon Uris

One of my favourite authors, Leon Uris,  was born on August 3, 1924. Celebrated as an American novelist, known for his historical fiction and the deep research that went into his novels, his two bestselling books were Exodus (published in 1958) and Trinity (published in 1976). He has written several more, that make for riveting reading.

He was one of the writers I was greatly influenced by during my twenties, and read several of his books including QBVII, Milta Pass, Haj and Mila 18.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Israel and his works explored the history of the country, and the Nazi chapter of twentieth century history in great detail. I particularly remember learning from QBVII how each of us can be unreasonably cruel when we have the power. It also warned me against being too judgmental of others when I felt they had done something wrong, for it is difficult to really know how I would have behaved in a similar situation.

From the outside, each of us is a righteous being, but power, greed, lust can corrupt the human spirit, and his books are a revelation of how the most evolved of human beings being corrupted by these emotions.

It is writers like him and Ayn Rand who taught me a new way to look at life; they are the ones who inspire me to write. To pen my thoughts in the belief that one day, someone, somewhere will be touched by them.

Who is your favourite author? What have you learnt from his / her writings? Let me know!

~ Bharti Athray

The Poor Soul

The World is chasing a Poor Soul to the very ends of the consumerist universe. Somewhere along the way, the Poor Soul reaches the edge of a cliff. The rabid World came closer and closer, its loud ads, the life sucking entertainment, the terrifying mind-numbing apps are now within a killing distance. The Poor Soul must choose: to jump off the edge of the Universe as he has always experienced it or be murdered at the hands of these merciless capitalists whom he has rebelled against all his life.

He looks back, the madness in the eyes of those who make up the capitalist crowd is terrifying. In that second, the Poor Soul jumps off. He chooses death of life as he has known, leaping off into the unknown, arms flailing, his heart seemed to have stopped beating… yet the barks and screams of his hunter reached him… standing at the very edge of the cliff.

The cold wind of the unknown, the dark hollow of a space unexplored hit his face as he fell. Something burned deep within him, tearing his insides, cutting through his muscles, and it hurt. All he wanted in that moment was to feel the world he had left behind under his feet. He cried out loud as the realization that he had jumped into nothingness rose in him. He fell, uncontrollably, like a stone from a 30 storey high-rise. His arms tried desperately to clutch at something – anything, but nothing changed. He continued to fall, the cold dark wind coarsely brushing against his skin, when suddenly the fall slowed to a float.

He sensed a warmth of another atmosphere, not completely unlike where he had come from. The sense of familiarity, inspite of the darkness made him feel a little better inside. His chest was not burning anymore, the knots in his stomach loosened, he could control his movements. Even as he floated downwards, he noticed little dots of blue lighting up the pitch dark space around him. Gently, ever so gently the floating motion led him downwards, rocking him into a tired, exhausted sleep.

~ Bharti Athray

Image Source: darknightrp.wikia.com

HOW TO MAKE YOUR CSR REPORTING EASIER AND MORE EFFECTIVE

With CSR having become an important and mandatory activity in the Indian corporate segment, companies are investing serious time and money in this space. Having taken up various initiatives, it becomes mandatory for the organizations to also report what is being done under these initiatives during the year.

This reporting plays a critical role at various levels:

  1. Excellent material for PR with various stakeholders
  2. Generates employee engagement which is important to ensure project sustainability
  3. Regular documentation helps the HR / Finance departments appropriately track the progress being made in various initiatives over time.

Why you need a good CSR report
The CSR report, when compiled with a purpose can mobilize resources and create ample goodwill around the organization. As a communication expert, working with companies to develop the CSR reports and share these in a presentable format to their various audiences, I have often found some common gaps in data compilation. It would help for the CSR Team to keep these issues in mind during the year, when they are on the field, in midst of the community. Collection and proper documentation of this data at the time of the event will enable the external / internal Communication Team to present a more comprehensive report at the end of the year.

Checklist for the CSR team

  • Use a good quality digital camera to take photographs of the various activities done on the field – pictures taken with the mobile camera do not reproduce well.
  • Take pictures where the light is sufficient, and faces are not in the dark. Images where faces are in the dark cannot be used in the final reports.
  • While the effort is to show community development, and these are live pictures, show the difference your initiative is making in the community. Where possible, use community members and scenarios which are visually are pleasant.
  • Maintain details of your activities project wise, so it becomes easier for the third party Communication Agency to prepare your reports. Develop a format of reporting that all your CSR Leads will follow, this will help you to ensure all the key data has been recorded.
  • For each event, the team must record :
    – the objective of the initiative,
    – corporate team members involved,
    – activity done,
    – participation in actual numbers, (response to activity)
    – location of activity,
    – pictures of beneficiaries,
    – quotes from community leaders on the success of the event,
    – sustainability plans for the activity.
  • When sharing data with your communication agency, share your images as jpegs in the image folder, with a separate folder for each event.
  • At the same time, your draft report must carry the relevant images for the event, so the external team is better able to understand which images go with a particular write up.
  • Share the overall vision of the CSR initiatives, and get your CSR team to chat with the Communications Team. Often, documentation records facts, but misses out of significant soft skills milestones achieved on the field. These can be shared verbally, giving the Communications Team a feel of what has actually been achieved, how it has made a difference to the community and why the community is supporting the initiatives. These insights are often lost during the documentation of the activity done, yet are important to give a flavor and warm feel to your CSR reports that seeks to connect with the various stakeholders.
  • Give due credit to your CSR leads and field workers from the organization. This boosts their morale, gives them recognition among peers and inspires others to join the initiatives. Support from within the organization in very important to be able to sustain these projects over a long period of time.
  • Clearly define the figures that need to be shared with the audiences. Providing the Communications Team with data sheets or tables is meaningless, as they will not be able to interpret these facts. You need to clearly tell them what data you want to highlight and why.
  • Decide upfront what have been your most successful initiatives and how you wish to break up the data available: team wise or initiative wise.
  • You will need messages from senior management of the organization, start talking to them early on as these messages take time to come in. In case the Communications Agency is drafting these for you, ask for it in the initial days, to give you ample time for approvals and changes.
  • Be prepared to purchase stock images for key pages: cover, separators etc. Budget for these as most of the time, images taken by your people on the field will not lend themselves to enlargement to the required size.
  • Develop an online version of your CSR report, put up your data online. See how you can get someone to update this information on a monthly basis to keep it fresh.

If you have any queries regarding compiling a CSR report for your organization, do drop me a message in comment box below. I would be happy to help in any way possible! Cheers.

~ Bharti Athray