Identity: Beyond Borders

The anti-narcotics team had arrived. We were about to go through another rigorous round of security check. Sheru, one of the sniffer dogs, was sun-bathing when he heard his name being called, after which, he jumped excitedly and proceeded towards us. If you’re a fully functional human being with a heart, the sight of a dog in uniform will melt you. We took out our cell phones but were soon rebuked for doing so. This was serious business and Sheru had work to do. Walking in and around our luggage, which were quite a few, Sheru moved on to other passengers. At this point, we were getting late. We had to cross the Wagah Border by afternoon and we hadn’t even boarded the bus that would take us there. To add to our woes, it had started raining. Having grown up in India, watching parades being held on Independence Day at the Wagah Border, always seemed mystical—something out of a movie. Except this was real life, and this wasn’t a drill or an extended joke. My siblings and I had imagined a lot of things we’d be able to witness at the border. It was our first time, it was going be a historic moment for us all. Naturally, we were thrilled. The whole idea of crossing the border by foot is, in my opinion, a little hilarious and maybe unreal. How can a single man-made line divide entire countries? How can the fate of so many people be decided, depending on which side of the line you were in? I guess, my questions were about to be answered.

At one point of time, we were in the no-man’s land— that little space before you step into another country, not belonging to either India or Pakistan. A single step forward would put an official tag of which country I was standing in. It didn’t mean anything, it didn’t deter where I was from, it didn’t take away my roots. Standing there under the biting Amritsar rain, waiting to cross the border, it didn’t feel too magical or heroic. Instead, I was trying to absorb, to understand the seriousness of the situation. I was blown away by the high-rise walls, the beautiful golden dome that you see, with ‘India’s Line of Defense’ written in bold right at the center. In between dragging our luggage and getting anxious about just everything in general, we forgot that our crossing the border coincided with the lowering of the flags’ ceremony, a daily military practice, at the Attari-Wagah border, carried by both India and Pakistan’s security forces ever since 1959. There were people from both sides of the line, who had come with their friends & family, to witness the parade. There were the national flags of both the countries, dancing in the rain, looking at its people, and what had become of it. Despite the terrible weather, the stands were filling up fast. You could see colorful umbrellas forming a canopy at opposite ends, a kind of shield, a form of defiance. Humans have unwavering resilience when they put their mind to something. It was time for us to finally walk our way into another country, passports ready. My grandmother was given a wheelchair, chaperoned by one of the coolies who helped her cross the border at lightning fast speed. 

 It’s a joke in the family now; of us parading in the middle as we dragged our luggage to the other end while the crowd sat at both sides watching us march helplessly. 

I couldn’t stop noticing a woman in her late 50s, who was alone, carrying a dozen bags filled with fresh produce, a few belongings that she would be needing and sheer determination on her face. Maybe she was a vendor, making a living selling fruits & vegetables. She painstakingly tried lifting her heavy bags onto the trolleys right after crossing the border. To avoid a crowd, the security was tightened. The woman was struggling to assemble her belongings and she asked my brother for help. We were busy collecting our luggage to be put in trolleys so that we could proceed towards immigration. We looked back to see the woman give her blessings to my brother for his help, smiling, her eyes moist—forming wrinkles that made her look older. She waved at us and went her way. Did she belong to India or Pakistan? It didn’t matter, not at that moment. There were so many like us, wanting to see their relatives, with longing in their eyes & joy at seeing their loved ones after an unsparing journey. 

This wasn’t going to be the first and last time I was to experience human empathy in all its glory. Belonging to a family who suffered the aftermath of Partition, I know well enough, the limitless ways in which people have extended their support throughout. It’s times like these when humans surpass themselves, with only kindness and empathy as their deus ex machina

We may be divided, we may have forgotten true nationalism, but the kindness of our hearts cannot be bought, it cannot be traded or diminished. We may lose everything one day but empathy? It’s embedded in stone and it’s here to stay. 

WORDS

I wonder how a few words strung together have the power to make one believe in something, anything. I wonder how a single line captivates us so much that we stop reading it mid-sentence, closing the book & taking a pause because what we just read made us feel things we didn’t know we were capable of feeling.

I wonder how a few words strung together have the power to make one believe in something, anything. I wonder how a single line captivates us so much that we stop reading it mid-sentence, closing the book & taking a pause because what we just read made us feel things we didn’t know we were capable of feeling. These words and these stories have transformed, inspired and created a whole generation of people who feel a little less burdened, and a lot more carefree. I’ve always had an over-active imagination. Growing up, I found myself struggling to contain them, thinking something was wrong with me. I was filled with ideas, some were crazier than I would like to admit, but there were quite a few. It didn’t matter how or where, my head would always be like a movie, with characters playing their part, almost like reading from a script. The only problem was I didn’t know what to do with this huge cast that was living rent free in my head. Books were there. I had access to them. But I didn’t turn to them frequently. They didn’t catch my attention. My mother would dread summer vacations since I’d be dancing on her head, crying over how bored I was, and how summer vacations should not even be a thing. It was almost hilarious because my brothers would spend hours on video games or going outside to play. I would accompany them, play for hours but still come back wanting something more simulating, something that would hold me down. 

And just like most great things, I picked a book out of nowhere. For the first time in my life, the stories in my head seemed real. I don’t think you understand the power a 12year old feels when she realizes that the things in her head weren’t crazy after all, and that impossible, magical and even extraordinary things happen in books and nobody thinks you’ve lost it.

I was invincible. I didn’t know what to do with this newly recognized power. I was going crazy just thinking about it. I started devouring books, anything I could get my hands on, and finished it in a day, ready for another book. 

I often wonder what life would’ve been like if I wasn’t an active reader? To be honest, I shudder to even consider such a possibility. If life with its rocky roads, and curvy turns has thrown me off guard & made me lose balance then books with terrific healing power and warm embrace have helped me prepare for the uncertain. 

Words, well, they’re not just words after all. 

Mental Health Representation in Books & Why It’s Important.

The importance of mental health representation in books.

Dorian Gray Syndrome, famously coined after Dorian Gary, Oscar Wilde’s most talked about character in his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, displays chronic narcissism, dysmorphophobia, and failure to cope with psychological maturation. Dorian is described as self-obsessed, is hated by society, and ultimately meets a cruel end. BDD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness characterized by this illusion that one’s body part is flawed, and therefore needs fixing. The thoughts can be compulsive and pervasive, taking up several hours in a day. But I’m not here to give you a rundown of what it is about. The time in which Oscar Wilde wrote his only novel was devoid of the concept of mental illness. Anyone displaying any signs of an unhealthy mind was considered mental or crazy or Satan’s spawn.

However, we’ve come a long way since then. Writers are advocating for mental health representation in books, voicing their opinions strongly, and ensuring awareness of mental illness takes place through the written word.

When I read Matt Haig’s book, REASONS TO STAY ALIVE, I was overwhelmed by the accuracy with which he spoke about his tryst with anxiety and depression. At that time, I knew only the surface layer of what anxiety might feel like, having experienced general anxiety that comes with living. Little did I know, I would come back to read this book over and over again when my anxiety had skyrocketed, leaving me with dread and constant worry. What is it about the written word that’s so comforting? Why are we drawn to fictional characters, their life, and their experiences? The week following my onset of anxiety I would unknowingly just reach for his book and spend hours reading and then re-reading some more. Even while at work, I would look forward to just returning home so that I could read. It’s unexplainable, the desire to get lost in words. Not much has changed, I still reach for a book, and it’s a reflex I’ve mastered. Books have made me realize we’re all together in our pain and struggle, that even if our world is turned upside down, we can turn to books even if it’s not real.

Mental health representation in books is highly imperative and plays a huge role in defining mental illnesses across all specters. The ability of the readers to be able to connect with the characters, to empathize with them, to understand how despite all the barriers, one is not alone, helps in coping with their own struggles. A simple acknowledgment on the part of the writers about mental illness goes a long way in removing the stigma and spreading awareness. Mental illness is a broad spectrum, one that cannot be confined to a particular book; but the act of learning and relearning by the mere turning of pages brings to the reader a sense of responsibility and a conscience that didn’t exist earlier. They begin to unravel layers of complexity in their brains and start to see things from other people’s perspective. It’s important to note that readers are smart, they grasp the subtleties and hints and a sudden change in emotion of the characters way better than writers could possibly imagine. Reading opens up space for the readers to finally let themselves lose, to understand their emotions and maybe come to terms with it. Hence, the onus falls on the writers to be sensitive to the characters, and give them the ending they deserve.

While many readers believe that the representation of mental health in books has helped them tremendously, others beg to differ. For someone who is suffering from mental illness, it becomes difficult to read about characters that hit really close to home. The pain and heartache become all too familiar, often acting as a trigger. Every reader is different, and their experiences have shaped them into the person they are which is why certain stories instead of calming them, tend to revive memories they wish to forget. Here’s where the depiction of mental illness falls into a grey area.

Most books, though well intended, fail to act as flag bearers of mental health because of their over-stereotypical nature, and exaggerated narrative, lack of sensitivity, and not to mention the tragic fate of their characters who’ve endured some form of mental illness. A dangerous trend of romanticizing and painting a rosy picture of mental illness has created a superficial image in the readers’ mind. It has become the new cool, and something the reader must aspire to in order to be accepted in their social circle. Not only is it detrimental to their own character development, but it also tears apart the struggles of people with mental illness. Misrepresentation of mental health robs a person from hope, and a chance to live a normal life. Extensive research and in-depth analysis are required on the part of the writers to be able to do justice to their story, and to mental health.

It’s more than just accurate representation in books. Most youngsters are still trying to understand what goes on in their heads, and books come closest in unraveling the chaos that is in their minds. In India, mental illness is still a stigma. Many people are unable to get help and suffer in silence. The existence of real characters displaying mental health issues is a powerful medium through which one can feel validated, and identify the core of their problem.

A little sensitivity, knowledge, and empathy on the part of the writers can go a long way in assuring people who may be suffering to believe in a better world. To know that you can be going through the hardest time of your life, and still emerge unscathed. For them to understand that their mental illness should not define who they are, that they are stronger than the voices in their heads, and to not feel alone in a world that has the potential to swallow you up in its entirety.

While we’re at the topic of mental health, it’s only fair that we hear what writers feel about mental health representation in books. I spoke to some authors and this is what they have to say:

  • There are a few stories on mental health and mostly deal with women or children. There are very few novels about men who are going through a mental breakdown. If at all, they are thrillers usually. Madness or mental breakdowns make people vulnerable. There are so many ways that a mental health breakdown can be depicted. For example, many people sometimes won’t even consider that Gatsby was not mentally stable. I think the representation of mental health is something readers have to develop as awareness as well.

————— Faiqa Mansab, author This house of Clay and Water

  • As an author, I think that mental health concerns are really not addressed I books adequately. There are different aspects to mental health other than depression which is never really spoken about in books. Schizophrenia is always spoken in the context of thrillers or suspense but no one ever covers the misery or the helplessness that a person suffering from schizophrenia goes through. There’s some awareness about depression and to some extent about general mental health after Bollywood started speaking of it, as it became somewhat acceptable but in books, we are yet to see that happen.

———-Monica Mujumdar Dixit, author of A Quest for Spring

  • To be honest, I am aware of 2 fiction novels by Indian authors that deal with mental health – Life is What You Make it by Preeti Shenoy and a recent one Missing Presumed Dead by Kiran.

Mental Health is certainly not an easy topic to write about. It needs much more research than simply going online and typing Mental Health on Google. But it can no longer be ignored. Data by WHO indicates one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders. Despite these numbers, people are unwilling to talk about their issues. There is a stigma attached to it and people end up suffering in silence. I truly believe authors need to be encouraged to write about diverse characters. It is the best way to create a conversation about issues that so many of us have to face in isolation.

You know when we read an interesting story and we go like “Oh man, I totally get what she’s going through.” That’s what we need today with these sticky topics too. Those who suffer should know they are not alone in this battle. When I say diverse … I strongly believe we need to bring more variety to our characters. Let’s weave stories that represent divorce, homosexuality, mental health, learning disabilities in their true form. These stories don’t have to be grim and depressing. I was lucky to work with Juggernaut and write about some tough topics in my debut novel. I do hope as authors we continue to see that support. Indian readers have devoured novels like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Bell Jar. And Preeti’s novel went on to become a bestseller. So we have the appetite…we just need to be presented with a spread.

————-Donna Dias, author of Love is Never Easy

I’ve compiled a list of books, TV shows, and Movies that talk about mental health:

BOOKS:

  • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • First, we make the beast beautiful by Sarah Wilson
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
  • The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

TV-SHOWS

  • Modern Narratives
  • Rewind to the 90s
  • Public vs Private
  • The Good Doctor (ABC)
  • This is Us
  • Jessica Jones (Netflix)
  • You’re the Worst

MOVIES:

  • The Silver Linings Playbook
  • Black Swan
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Still Alice
  • Shutter Island
  • Fight Club
  • Finding Nemo

At the end of the day, one needs to understand that the experience of reading a book is subjective, and our collective thoughts will be different. However, mental health representation depends highly on how the authors treat the issue. We need more writers who are empathic, and understand how vulnerable people with mental illness feel so that the stories they create make them feel that all is not lost even though it may feel like it.

My Blogging Journey and Celebrating 100 Posts!

Celebrating 100 posts and reflecting on the years gone by.

This is my 100th post.

I don’t know what people write in their 100th post because I sure as heck don’t know. I didn’t think a day such as this one had any possibility of becoming a reality but here we are.

I started my blog when I was in my first year of college. But let’s go back a little further. I started reading a lot more in the 11th standard, and would read in between classes, and on my way to school even though I was always drawn to reading, devouring all the books from the library, and buying books from the Scholastic book fair. But during my late teens, there was this need to read books at all times. I would be lost in the written word, finding solace and excitement and thrill. Naturally, my choices in books were questionable but gradually my reading taste changed and has continued to do so. While in school, I had developed a deep fascination for writing. I also started writing a lot of poems( which were a cringefest) but also short stories. So when I went to college, starting a blog seemed like the right thing to do.

I figured out the logistics (googled it) and created a blog named, ‘The Literary Cat“.

For the longest time, I would write under this blog name and changed it to ‘Books and Teaa’ only recently. I started off with book reviews, short stories, and then slowly went on to writing how-tos, and listicles. However, I was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities in college and my blog wasn’t the highlight at this point in time in my life. Throughout my under-graduation, my posts were sporadic, and all over the place. I didn’t start a blog to make something out of it or to become a full-time blogger—It was created because the thoughts in my head needed a home.

Fast forward to 2016, and I had just finished my post-graduation diploma and was pursuing a Masters degree. At this point in time, two things happened.

  • I was searching for a job, and pursuing an online masters. I had time to spare.
  • I stumbled upon Bookstagram.

Here’s where things started to turn around and by that, I don’t mean I started earning money through blogging. This was never my goal. I always wanted to be known as a writer and someone who likes reading books.

Blogging has been that corner of my life which I can pick up wherever I left. I always write whenever I have an idea that can no longer be contained in my head. Here’s when the words flow smoothly, my mind running at the speed of light spewing idea after idea, and the stories writing themselves.  It’s rewarding and satisfying but at the same time A LOT of work. I still don’t understand how WordPress works and there are so many things I can improve on my site. I would like to be more active, put in more effort, and be consistent. There have also been times where I didn’t want to think I have a blog. To be honest, I still wonder why people read what I write.

If I show you the stats, it’s going to reflect poorly on me, and probably expose me as a ‘fake’ person who only claims to love writing. But wanting to do something and actually doing it are two separate things. I still haven’t figured it all out, I still can’t think of blog post ideas, and I know I will not be able to stay as consistent as I would like to be. But that’s how life is sometimes. I like to think of my blog as a safe space devoid of any obligations. I cannot force myself to do things and I don’t want to make blogging a chore, a checklist I can tick off. And neither should you.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years of blogging, it’s this:

The results are going to be slow. The views on your posts won’t be too high initially, you’ll have to promote your posts relentlessly, and even then you’ll have days where you won’t see any traffic on your blog. It’s going to get frustrating and you would want to give up. But this is exactly when you shouldn’t. The fact that you’re still sitting at your desk, typing away regardless of whether or not anyone is reading the posts is when you’ll know you’re doing this for yourself. And that’s when it won’t matter. 

 

 

 

 

Am I happy?

What is happiness?

For the longest time, I believed happiness to be a place where if I enter once, I’d never come out of; like a pandora’s box, a candy shop that never runs out of candy or an endless supply of my favorite things. Little did I know, happiness would be fleeting, coming and going; sometimes staying for days maybe even months, and other times just brushing me by like the winter breeze. It’s hard to describe what happiness means. Everything I know of life has been experienced through trial and error, and everything I knew of happiness has been felt after a series of ups and downs. Happiness does not come from an isolated place. It’s either accompanied before or after sadness, sometimes devoid of emotions. After all, that’s how you really understand what it’s like being happy. When your heart flutters and dances, when the moon looks more beautiful and when your shoulders don’t feel heavy.  If you look closely, it’s just an absence of sadness. So do I look happy? I don’t know, it depends on how you look at it. But do I have happy moments in between moments of nothingness? Of course, I do. I’ve found happiness in the mundane. It doesn’t take much effort but this happiness isn’t conditional. It’s forever giving. And for now, that’s all I need.

The Artist

Trying my hand at flash fiction by taking inspiration from real life people.

I saw her sitting in front of her canvas painting, with one hand clutching the color palette, and the other frantically filling in the empty space with bursts of color. From where I stood, I could only see parts of the canvas jutting out, and an array of movements as her fingers gently glided over the sheet of paper. Her hair was tied up in a bun looking as aesthetically pleasing as her paintings. The thing about artists is that their entire life seems like an elaborate painting, with each and every stroke meticulously planned out, the color scheme transitioning from vibrant to light pastels, the image reflecting the painter’s thoughts and feelings.

Having known her since school, deciphering the workings of her mind came easily to me. Her paintings, however, not so much. There was never a pattern. It’s true what they say; never try to understand the ‘WHY’ behind an artist’s work. It was the same with her. On the surface, she’d seem very happy; adding joy and sparkles in everyone’s life.

But if you had the chance to look at her paintings, you’d think differently. Here she put parts of herself no one knew. On these papers were images and drawings so sacred, and dark that one could never fully grasp the intensity of it. Inside those paintings were parts of her life unrecognizable at first glance. The more you looked at it, the more you unraveled hidden layers.

Every time I see her sketch something new, I’m awed by how much I didn’t know. I pride myself because I get to keep this feeling close me, not sharing it with anyone else.

That’s the thing about breathing the same air as an artist; every day is an invention. A portal to a different world, and the chance to see life one brush stroke at a time.

What it’s like working in a publishing house: My Internship experience

Is working in a publishing house worth it?

I got a call from Orient Blackswan 3 months before my internship date and was offered a general internship which meant I would be working under all departments. I have been a reader and book blogger since quite a few years now, and have been wanting to get into the publishing field. Getting a call for an internship was definitely one of the highlights of my year, and as I waited for November to arrive, there were several thoughts running through my mind. See, when you’re finally getting to do something you’re passionate about, there’s always two outcomes; you either realize  this is what you’re meant to do or you’re hit by a  gut wrenching feeling that your dream wasn’t really yours to begin with. I can safely say it was the former for me.

On my first day, I was handed a schedule which gave me an idea of the number of days I’d be working in each department. I think that kind of set the tone for me because it helped me mentally prepare myself.  Now, I’m going to give you a detailed account of what I did in each department, and what I learnt from it. This is going to be a long post, so grab a cup of tea, relax and keep reading.  (The department’s are mentioned in no particular order so whichever dept appeals to you the most just head on to it).

  • ADMINISTRATION:
  • DURATION: 1 DAY

When you’re about to start an internship you’ve been dreaming about, the nerves run high. Naturally, I was shitting bricks but at the same time had the energy of 50 toddlers combined (don’t ask me how I know this). My first day was spent understanding the workings of the Administration dept. They’re responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the organization whilst tending to individual needs. To be honest, I didn’t do much on this particular day except lounge around and read books. You thought I wouldn’t exploit the fact that I was surrounded by books 24/7?

  • EDITORIAL
  • DURATION: 11 DAYS

Being a book editor has been a lifelong dream, and I had been dying (okay, exaggeration) to work under the Editorial department. It was everything I had imagined and a little bit more. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by extremely talented, kind and energetic people who made the entire experience worthwhile. I spent most of my days laughing with the editorial team (who by the way are amazing, haven’t I already mentioned it?), while at the same time learning a lot about the process of editing. I remember leaving the office at the stipulated time with the editorial team still working relentlessly. They would often work over time and still clock in the next day without being late.

When it comes to publishing houses who publish academic books such OBS,  the editorial department is divided into schools, Higher Academics (HS) and Social Sciences (Fiction and non-fiction books for colleges and general reading).

Schools: While working under the ELT department, I was introduced to novel concepts in the field of publishing. From deciding the content of the children’s text books to putting text-appropriate illustrations, and making smart-books, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. I think I started questioning my ability as a writer and reader, when I had to write summaries of poems for standard 6. It was a nightmare. I mean, I am not the kind who likes poems leave alone understand them and write a detailed explanation of why the clouds were black and not blue. But I really had no choice but to pen down everything I could decipher.

Since technology is being introduced in education, and in the classroom setup, school books are now accompanied by presentations on various topics. The idea here was to make picture galleries for each topic to enable better understanding for the students. I made a number of presentations, which was so damn hard because you have to get into the details of each chapter and find an illustration that’s not only appropriate but is also copy-righted. I think towards the end, I almost lost my mind. But it was something I had not anticipated, and it definitely gave an insight into the editing department.

Social Sciences (HA):  On my first day with the social sciences department, I was handed an Editor’s manual along with Chicago Manual of Style and Judith Butcher’s Copy-editing Manual by my mentor. I was to read through the manuals, understand and comprehend how a manuscript is proofread, how it is copy-edited and the various stages of editing. Being able to study the techniques and processes involved in editing was a surreal moment. I was lucky to have a mentor whose insights about the publishing industry were invaluable to me. Not only did she constantly encourage me to improve myself, she also cleared a number of concepts I was confused about.
I was given a number of typed-pages to proofread and copy-edit. I also learnt how referencing is done in a book and how they differ if it’s a novel, journal or a magazine. During the second day in this department, I was asked to write a blurb for the book, “Field of Sports”. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. After reading the book thoroughly and understanding what the book was offering, I wrote the blurb which was approved by my mentor. I also spilled a cup of coffee very elegantly on my work table, thereby displaying my competency in clumsiness and inability in settling into the adult life.

Not just this, AND THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART,  I had the opportunity of proofreading a manuscript, ‘Agnipariksha’ which is now a published book. When I was asked to proofread it, I could hear music playing in the background while a cool, soft breeze was flowing through my hair, and in that moment I knew I had found true love. It was really romantic.

P.S: If you’re interested you can read the review of Agnipariksha here: Agnipariksha by Hamid Kureshi: Translated by Rita Kothari

  • STOCKS & SERVICING:
  • DURATION: 1 DAY

Okay, so here I got to visit the warehouse, and it’s everything dreams are made of. Now stocks and servicing can get a little tricky so try to stay with me.

This department keeps a detailed account of the number of books that come in and are sent out for delivery.  I was explained how the books are maintained in the warehouse. Keeping a track of thousands of books is not easy. Therefore, every order that comes in is put into the system. An invoice is prepared against an order and all the details are stored in the office computer. A copy of the same is sent to the customer. After the orders are received, the books are prepared to be sent to the destined location. They have to be packed and wrapped carefully lest they’re destroyed in transit. The mode of transport depends on the kind of order. If it’s a bulk order, then the books are delivered through Lorry or Railways.
When the consignment is released, the physical stock is checked as per IBSTI. If the stock has been returned, they are tallied against their ISBN number, price tag, titles and the number of copies being returned. The unsold books are sent for pulping in order to make room for new stock. During book launches, events, workshops or seminars, the books are provided by this department after signing the requisition form.
I KNOW, RIGHT? Half of the things went tangent over my head, too. But it’s okay. While I was there, and when I wasn’t staring at all the books, I asked a LOT of questions and most of them were very stupid but heyyy that’s how we learn, don’t we?

  • PRODUCTION
  • DURATION: 2 DAYS

The production department, as I learnt, entails a lot of responsibilities. My mentor was extremely kind to give an in-depth overview of how production in a publishing house takes place. This department is responsible for the design, layout, printing, and for e-book coding of the finished book. It was interesting to learn the various paper-sizes and their names, the multiple book sizes now used in the publishing industry and how there has been a huge transition in the method of printing. The production department has to print books that are not only cost-effective but also high in quality.
I learnt how to choose the correct paper size of a book, along with understanding how to measure the book size.

Not going to lie, I was unaware of the technical aspects when it came to publishing a book. I never bothered finding out HOW a book is published, and it was extremely informative.

  • MARKETING
  • DURATION: 1 DAY

Starting with the marketing strategies for individual books, my mentor explained how the books were promoted in the general market, in this case schools. Marketing touches all aspects of publishing and book selling. This department develops creative marketing campaigns which include conducting workshops, seminars, book launches and bookstore displays.
My task was to create a list of the number of activities in math books (class 5, 6, 7 and 8) and create a power point presentation on how best to market and promote the upcoming Magnolia English Reader Series. During this time, I learnt how important it was for the marketing team to be creative, think ahead of time and be ready to come with new ideas to market their books.

  • SALES:
  • DURATION: 7 DAYS

Sales department sucked all the energy out of me because it is HARD-WORK. It is the responsibility of the sales department to get the book in the hands of booksellers, other retailers and mainly the target customers. From there, the book goes on to be sold to the customer.
I learnt the various stages of sales; pitching to target customers, distribution of the books and Recovery of sales and meeting the yearly target. For this the sales team has to do a lot of field work and remain in close contact with potential customers (here, colleges, and schools).
I visited approximately 9 schools, and the idea was to pitch all the new releases to the principal. It was exhausting, and involved a lot of travelling and waiting. But again, I would have never imagined the amount of effort it goes into spreading word of mouth about books.

 

 

After I had successfully worked under all departments, I was required to make a report on my experience and the work I did each day. I didn’t want to leave but as they say all good things come to an end. I said my goodbyes and left with a huge smile on my face because I was a happy little bunny who got to live her dream even though it was for short while.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my short span of working in the professional field, it’s that you HAVE to do what you like to do even if it’s not in your full capacity. I understand the restraints life brings but even if you spend an hour of your day doing what you’re passionate about, the chances of you being closer to your dream will increase, and in a world where happiness is so scarce who wouldn’t want to grab that tiny amount of immense joy and hold onto it, right?

 

Tiny Little Flames

In this post, I talk about what it’s like being a teacher, and finding yourself doing something you never imagined doing.

I’m greeted with enormous smiles, twinkling eyes, and expectant faces every time I enter a class. In front of me are 50 odd students waiting to listen to their weekly lecture. Every time, I take a class, the experience is different from the one before. It’s like the children have their own way of steering the class in any direction they please.  For as long as I can remember, I never considered teaching as a career. I want to become a book-editor someday, and plan on writing a book in the future. However, there’s a plot twist. I’m currently working as a personality development trainer in schools and I have a lot to narrate.

On my first day of school, I was overwhelmed. More so because I had to teach students of class 1, who if I may say, are quiet a handful. You see little minions running around here and there, tugging at you, wanting your attention, complaining about a missing eraser or color pencil or refusing to sit in their place unless you promise to play games with them for the next forty minutes. I love kids, and teaching standard one appeared like a piece of cake till I stepped into the classroom.

To say I struggled would be an understatement. Managing a class seemed harder than I had ever imagined.  I wanted to run and scream along with the children.  I left the class feeling defeated. No one wants to be a crybaby at the first day of their job. But there I was. Being a crybaby.

It’s been 8 months since my first day as a teacher, and safe to say, I look forward to it with every passing hour.

So what changed, I ask myself. Have I come to the realization that there’s no hope for me to ever edit a manuscript, and so I’m being complacent and doing what’s being offered or have I developed a strange attachment to the children? I think it’s neither. I’m going to sound extremely cliché but I’m going to say it anyway; I feel a sense of purpose whenever I’m walking up & down the noisy hallway, strolling down the corridor with the air reverberating with a cacophony of “good mornings, and good afternoons” and the occasional smiles passed on by the students. It helps me focus on the bigger things in life. It also helps me focus on the little more significant things in life-like the way a child’s face lights up when they receive a compliment or when asked to rub the board as if it’s the only big responsibility that matters, or the way their faces droop when you stop them from talking or in the way they look at you as if you contain all the secrets of the universe. It’s surprising how such tiny hearts can contain so much love for someone they might not even see in the future.

I often find myself replaying scenarios of what the students told me, their expressions playing vividly in my mind, their gestures striking a chord. I only recently stopped being a student and it’s funny how the roles have changed.  It’s even more strange finding myself on the other side of the spectrum looking at things from a different perspective. Without realizing, I have a routine, one that keeps me on edge most of the time.

Robert Frost in his famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ writes:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I’ve been contemplating on the above stanzas which further led to the realization that teaching has made a lot of difference. It hasn’t been very long but maybe just maybe it’s exactly what I need. I don’t know if I’ll continue being a teacher but what I do know  is that sometimes the road less traveled leads you to places you never expected to go. You experience things you never did before, and you transform into someone you never thought you could be.

And sometimes, tiny little flames, create enough light to kindle your spirits.

 

 

Marketing Internship with Ambuja Neotia Group

What I gained while interning at the biggest Real Estate giants of Bengal.

I was about to complete my post-graduation in Mass Communication and Public Relations from St.Xavier’s college when I heard about The Telegraph You Internship Programme, 2016. By now the anxiety and dread of applying for internships and jobs had caught up with me and I was looking for opportunities that would help me kick start my career. Also, I had previously applied for The Telegraph You Internship Programme, 2015, but as luck would have it, I wasn’t selected. Determined to get through this time, I took extra-steps to ensure my answers stood out while filling the online application form. Although the chances of getting selected were not very high, I didn’t have much to lose. The final list of the selected candidates would be put up on the Telegraph YOU page. During this time, I started interning at another company although my mind kept reverting to the Telegraph Internship Programme.

Fast forward to June, I see my name on the list of selected candidates who were to appear for GD and then PI. I was ecstatic, to be extremely honest. But the anxiety didn’t end there. I still had a long way to go. I received a call informing me of the venue for GD and PI and the relevant documents that I had to carry.

I started early for my big day (If i can call it so), but since the universe likes playing with my emotions, the taxi driver took a detour and I reached late. I didn’t think it would matter much but boy oh boy was I wrong. On reaching Conclave Hotel, I saw everyone already seated , the names of the groups for GD  were announced, the process about to begin. Saying I panicked would be an understatement. “Is this the time to reach?” was the reply I got when I inquired about the group I was placed in.  I deserved it.

Pro tip: Never ever reach late for interviews. Punctuality is the key.

While we were seated, I looked around to find most students frantically searching for topics and reading the latest news to prepare themselves for GD. I panicked, again. I was not prepared for this; looking back it makes me laugh but at that point of time, it felt like a matter of life and death. As predicted, I took out my phone and did the same. Slowly, the groups were called and the process began.

The topic for GD revolved around freedom of speech (the infamous snapchat story of Tanmay Bhatt) which further transitioned into a parliamentary debate. It was interesting to see how we as students were ready to do anything to get our points across. Shouting and screaming was the order of the day. We had to stand out, you see, even if that meant going against the whole notion of “let’s agree to disagree”. The panelists were patient throughout with occasional nods wondering which part of the world we had come from. The group discussion ended with all the parties in complete disregard to the opinion of others. I was satisfied.

Pro tip: During group discussions instead of talking down others try to come up with rebuttals. You’ll earn brownie points. 

Since there were 10 groups consisting of 10 members each, I still had a lot of time to pass before the names of the candidates for PI was to be announced. I took the time to get to know other candidates. It was interesting to note that there were people from multifarious academic backgrounds. Science, Humanities, Commerce, you name it. Learning about their subjects, their ambitions, their interest in the internship broadened my horizon. Telegraph had managed to bring people from different academic interests under one umbrella.

It was finally time . The list of candidates for PI was announced. I got through. The personal interview was intimidating, a lot of questions were asked, the interviewers didn’t seem remotely impressed by my answers. After the interview, I was very sure I would not be selected. My interview lasted for less than 5 minutes.

To cut the story short, after a lot of waiting, the final list of 20 selected candidates was put up on the Telegraph YOU Facebook page. I WAS SELECTED FOR THE INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME. I danced a mini dance and celebrated in the most cliched way. At this point, I still didn’t know where I would be interning since Telegraph YOU had partnered with 5 other companies; The Telegraph, Ambuja Neotia, CESC Limited, 91.9 Friends FM & J.Walter Thompson. I got an email stating that I would be interning at Ambuja Neotia Group but before that I would have to go for another interview round conducted by Ambuja Neotia. I was in a daze. I had my fair share of interviews already and being grilled by the biggest real estate giants of Kolkata wasn’t very appealing. The date for the interview was set and I was nervous. Firstly, I come from an arts background. Secondly, I got selected for a marketing Internship. Thirdly, I didn’t know anything about Real Estate. I still decided to give it a shot. I had come so far and going back wasn’t really an option.

Pro tip: Grab any opportunity where there is scope for knowledge. You’ll learn as you go forward. 

I reached EcoSpace on time (learning from previous disasters, ha!). Other candidates who were to be my co-interns had reached before me. One by one, the interviews began. I was interviewed by the Marketing head of Ambuja Neotia group; A man with high competence, dexterity and passion for his work. The questions he asked were relevant to the present scenario of Bengal, the pros and cons of living in the city, what I thought about job opportunities for the youth of bengal  and the changes I could bring in the city, if given a chance. I answered with utmost sincerity and honesty. He seemed unimpressed and I wasn’t even surprised. Once again, my interview lasted for less than 5 minutes.

The following evening, I received a call by the Brand Manager of Telegraph, stating that my interview went well and I would be interning at Ambuja Neotia from 11th July. I sighed a sigh of relief. I was still apprehensive about the internship.

11th july, 2016: My office is located in EcoSpace which is in New Town and is the smart city of  Bengal. It is a beautiful place with multiple facilities, vast expanse of greenery and several eating joints. EcoSpace has also been built by Ambuja Neotia Group. On stepping foot in ecospace, I knew it would be a lifetime experience.

Since we were complete noobs when it came to Real Estate, our first few days were spent understanding the concepts of Real Estate. The other co-interns were also from different backgrounds. One of them had studied engineering from Heritage Institute of Technology, one was in the third year of college pursuing Economics from Scottish Church and the third was from St.Xaviers studying B.com. The marketing managers at Ambuja were always very helpful and who were our mentors throughout the internship. We were taught about the basics of RE , the market trends, how to compare the prices of different housing projects, our competitors & how to talk to realtors of established companies. Our main job was to research on the upcoming as well existing housing projects in New Town & Rajarhat along with E.M Bypass. Since there were 4 of us, we were divided into two teams. My co-intern and I were to cover the entire Rajarhat & New Town area, talk to the marketing managers of the housing projects, compare the prices and make a presentation. The job required us to visit the housing projects. It was a daunting task since there were around 15-20 projects in Rajarhat alone and we had to cover almost all of them.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doesn’t matter if you did not understand a concept.

Days went by quickly, each of us busy working and preparing presentations. After two weeks had passed and we had learnt a little about RE, the marketing manager then proceeded to teach us how to deal with Developers. We were given the contact information of a number of consultants. Our task was to interview them and collect as much information as possible. I realised, at this point, that all of the interns were working out of their comfort zones and were putting in their best. None of us had any idea about Real Estate but we were ready to learn. We got the chance to visit the construction site of, “Uttalika”, the upcoming luxury housing project by Ambuja Neotia. The experience was surreal as we saw the working of a real estate housing project.

One particular working day, one of the marketing managers spent a considerable amount of time talking to us about his experiences and his journey. The entire evening was spent talking about the struggles of life, about the little things that matter the most and how determination and love for what you do is rewarding. We were grateful for him to take out time from his otherwise busy schedule to teach us valuable life lessons. These lessons are engraved in our minds.

Pro Tip: Stay humble, no matter where you are or what you do. 

We had to redo our presentations more than 7 -8 times because the marketing manager was not happy with the result. The final presentation was to be seen by the boss- The Marketing Head , hence, we were striving for perfection. By the end of the month , our final presentations, were to be reviewed by the entire marketing team. It was nerve-wracking as we had to explain our workings and cite examples of how we reached a particular conclusion in front of corporate professionals, highly competent, in their fields. On the final day, we gave our presentations and to our surprise the mangers were quite impressed. By now, we had picked up on the market trends and were able to address the questions asked by the Marketing head. After all, we spent an entire month brainstorming. We were happy. Our hard work had paid off.

A month flew by in a jiffy. We packed our bags, thanked our mentors, received the internship certificates and were ready to leave. It felt good. The kind of good that is sure to stay with you, something that you’re going to keep referring to, a journey you did not  anticipate but one that has changed you.

 

 

 

 

My Quarter life CRISIS.

When you realize, whatever decision you take right now will have serious repercussions on where you want to go and what you want to become in future, you change.

In about 2-3 weeks, I will have completed my post-graduation and will be steering myself into another chapter of life. It still feels like yesterday when I was accepted into University and although the diploma was only going to continue for a year, it occurred as a routine and something that had meaning. Fast forward to 2016 and here I am questioning what’s next?

No, I am not having any ‘crisis’ and I’m not typing this while drowning in a sea of tears. All is good. But then again, nothing seems like it. I guess this is that stage where you thought you would have achieved a lot but you’re no where closer to it. Remember when your 16 year old self would dream about having a life to look forward to by the time you were, say, 23 or 25? Well, now that I think of it, I’m only going back in reverse.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that we as kids have big goals and ambitions and when it’s time to put our dreams into reality, we kind of get lost. We suddenly question everything about ourselves and while most of us fight all odds, some aren’t able to cope. It’s not really about running from responsibilities but realizing you don’t have enough time. Not enough time to do everything you’ve wanted to.

The whole thought process behind a quarter life crisis makes sense to me now. Transitioning from being a teenager with serious hormonal issues to being a dysfunctional adult who has absolutely no idea what’s happening is difficult. I think the hardest thing about reaching a certain age is when people start expecting things out of you. Like hell. You start expecting things out of you. You want to have a meaningful life for yourself and you want to give something out to the world. Living in a world where people younger than you are doing unimaginable things, working towards their dreams, it strikes you hard. And THAT is a point of no return.

When I entered my 20s, I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride and I knew while things wouldn’t be easy, they would be achievable. I still hold on to that belief but somewhere down the line, I’ve realized, it’s way more harder than I had anticipated. You’re living your life but is it how you imagined? You wake up one day and suddenly you’re 23

If quarter life crisis wasn’t enough to bring down your energy levels, then being in an identity crisis would make matters even worse. The weirdest thing is figuring out what you’re really meant to do. Whether what you’re studying is the subject for you or the job you’re currently doing the right one for you? The doubts are endless.

When you realize, whatever decision you take right now will have serious repercussions on where you want to go and what you want to become in future, you change. You start to weigh every outcome like you have never before, your horizon on life undergoes a huge transition, you start accepting things the way they are and you become more careful. This is that phase where we really hustle. You know getting our shit together? It’s a different ball game.

I don’t know about you but I have days where I feel if I don’t do this now, I won’t be able to do it ever. And that is the single most frightening thing. To be unable to do things you want to. There is this constant pressure of accomplishing goals no matter how tiny. We keep saying I’ll do this when I grow up or I’ll take a 6 month vacation after college. Well, that time is here and most of it has gone. THIS IS CRUNCH TIME.

Your 20s is the most liberating yet confusing period of your life. Even though this is the phase where you will experience maximum upheavals emotionally, physically and psychologically, it is still worth every second. The uncertainty might get a little intimidating at first but learning to embrace it is winning half the battle.

So to everyone who’s having a hard time,

“Open your heart, mind and soul, and look forward to your future.Celebrate the little things life offers and stay humble with your achievements and successes. Spend more time on knowledge and memories and pay little to no attention on materialism. Be proud of how far you’ve come and know that you’re capable of nothing but the best.”