Cleaning up the culture of littering


The blog has seen a hiatus of sorts for quite sometime, a little intentional, a little because I really had nothing to say and was all out of words and needed to catch my breath a bit and get my words back, and because, well, honestly, I was getting a trifle bored with blogging. Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt.

Today, I felt I had something to say and decided, by God, I would say it. I have been saying this in bits and pieces, but today is going to be an all out, guns at dawn kind of effort. The Clean India Swach Bharat movement launched today. In troth, I am delighted. I am all for it. I hope it goes beyond the hyperbole and the photo ops and infiltrates down into our consiousness as citizens of our country that we and only we can keep our surroundings clean, and for that first, we must take pride in our surroundings. And by extension, we must treat our surroundings and our country the way we treat our homes, by being fastidious about keeping it clean.

As a swim parent, I accompany the offspring to many a swim meet and find that the culture of littering is all pervasive. Parents will lovingly feed their child a banana and casually drop the peel down to the floor next to them. Carboplus will be given to their offspring to help them with that extra boost of energy before a race, and the empty tetrapacks discarded on the ground. Boiled eggs shelled and fed, with the shells tossed casually into a corner. One memorable moment was when I actually told a parent sitting in front of me creating a person high pile of litter next to her to cease and desist and got told to mind my own business or clean it up myself if I was so concerned. And this lady was togged out with Gucci bag and Chanel sunglasses.

Another time I told a boy, who was casually throwing the wrappers of everything he was ingesting on the floor at a swim meet to pick himself up and take it to the dustbin few steps away, and was told clearly, “That is not my job, that is the cleaner’s job.” This is a boy who is driven around in a BMW.

How do you teach children not to litter when they learn that cleaning up is not their job. That they are not responsible for the cleanliness of the space around them. That it is demeaning to them to clean up behind them. How do you tell a grown adult that he or she must not litter? That littering reveals how narrow their minds are. That public calling out for their littering a public space means nothing to them, because there are no serious ramifications for littering–no steep fines unlike other countries, where they behave and keep their litter to themselves because they know that they will be hauled up if they do.

There is no shame in cleaning up after oneself. There is no shame in telling someone to pick up their litter. But there is shame in being a people who donot care about their surroundings and are willing to live in filthy surroundings because they will not speak out, or will not maintain basic civic sense. That is what we need to clean up first, the mindset, the mindset of indifference to our surroundings, the lack of a sense of ownership of public spaces, the attitude that makes us believe we demean ourselves if we pick up litter. That is what needs the broom.

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About influencers and social media


Some weeks ago, the very wonderful Anaggh Desai (@anaggh on twitter and the God of all he surveys on social media) sent across a mail inviting me to be part of a discussion on Influencers at Social Media Week, Mumbai. When Anaggh commands, you dare not say no, arey how can I, my tongue ties itself into knots on a stage, and do you know I was the one who always got chucked out after every GD when I was trying to get into the corporate world because I would feel terrified to jump into the discussion, etc. But, to cut a long story short, I said I would be there, hair in a braid, etc, and so I presented myself, duly spit polished on the appointed date at the appointed time.

With me on the panel, which was being moderated by Anaggh, were some of the most popular names on social media, Rohan Joshi of All India Bakchod, Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and Food Blogger, dear friend and the owner of the APB Cook Studio, Deepali Naair from Mahindra Holidays who serendipitously turned out to be an old acquaintance from my days as one who earned my keep as a paid employee at a media house, Karthik Srinivasan or @beastoftraal on twitter who is with Ogilvy and Dharmesh Gandhi from Star. It was a very interesting discussion. To start with, I learnt there are rate cards for tweets, and ‘influential tweeters” have set rate cards. Clearly I am not one of those, because I’ve been pretty much babe in the woods regarding this, and no one has offered me money to tweet yet. A gift voucher for Rs 500 has been the most tempting offer I have received so far. And one that offered me conveyance to attend a restaurant tasting. Sigh.  I’ve also learnt that folks buy followers, and there are agencies that can buy you the desired number of followers on twitter. It has been a harsh cracking of the rose tinted lenses.

Here’s my take on the entire influencer debate. To start with, I don’t think I am one. Having got that out of the way, I think the only true influencers in this country are Bollywood superstars and cricket stars. And you can only influence someone if you have some credibility with that person, and this credibility does not come across if they don’t have some sort of connection with you.

I do, however, have fun conversations on twitter occasionally, something I have consciously cut down on recently, having deleted both twitter and facebook from my phone, because seriously, there is a need to start withdrawing before one begins living one’s entire life on social media. And I had begun spending too much time than was mandated on social media.

I have used this ability to generate conversations, rather shamelessly I might say, to promote my books online. But then I am but a gareebz author and must make use of whatever promotional tools are available to me. I have also used twitter and facebook and blogs and other social media networks to further Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Violence Against Women Awareness. One of the initiatives that is very dear to me, India Helps, did come through a blog and a group of volunteers who connected online. I have no qualms absolutely about using social networks for all of these.

The trouble began when I began receiving mails from PR agencies for everything from fashion to sanitary ware to technology to industry body releases. I realised I’d gotten onto some list, and ergo, was being bombarded with mails that wanted me to write/tweet about their clients. If it was something of interest, I still might. But sanitary ware? Industry body releases? And frankly, the tone of some of the mails irked me. They came with an assumption that I would jump through hoops for them. I have spent a lot of time replying to mails asking people to take me off their mailing lists. My inbox is calmer and so am I now that I am not bursting a blood vessel every time I open mails.

I see folks running contests on twitter, and I have no issues with them doing so at all, at the end of the day there is no harm in earning an income and if they remain interesting tweeters I continue following them. If I feel that their feed is all about contests and promotions, I might just unfollow. And that is what every person who runs these promotions risks, me included, when I promote my books. There is always the unfollow button. No gun to anyone’s head to continue following. I appreciate a honest disclaimer if a brand is paying one to promote them, and I’m suspicious of tweets randomly promoting a brand. But, as I said, earning an income is no crime. And there’s always the unfollow button.

I’ve tried to keep my blogs, tweets and commercial work separate. I did have a blog where I wrote about beauty products. I was honest enough to put a disclaimer that I had received the sample for trial from the PR agencies and was clear that I would write what I believed about the product.  I’ve since discontinued reviewing beauty products for reasons I will not get into here, but suffice to say I’m not missing it. I write a blog for a biscuit brand, but it is a separate blog altogether from mine own.

I have had fun blogging. I’ve taken a brief break because it wasn’t fun anymore. I will return eventually, I’m sure. And at the end, that is all that matters to me. Having fun while tweeting and blogging, and not really worrying about what label gets tacked onto one.

Here is a picture from the event.

smw6

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Interview with me in Storizen’s September issue


here

storizencover

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Blogadda twitterchat for #CelebrateBlogging[View the story "Ask me about 'Blogging & Publishing' - @KiranManral" on Storify]


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On Amazon Deal of the Day Once Upon A Crush


My second novel, Once Upon A Crush, is Amazon India’s Deal of the Day just for today at Rs 97 for the paperback and Rs 59 for the Kindle. 

amazondealoftheday

Here’s what the book is about:

Rayna De, stuck in a dead end job with a boss from hell, zero love life and the big 3-O looming large on the immediate horizon, has started to panic a bit. No, make that panic a lot. Enter new object of lust in the office, Deven Ahuja, and Rayna is overpowered by inappropriate visions of Cupid aiming his arrows straight into her heart, with turtle doves doing their billing and cooing act in the backdrop. Alas, Deven is completely out of Rayna’s league despite the contradictory messages he seems to be sending out, and is, as decreed by page three supplements of the city newspapers, the man in the life of the gorgeous, light eyed model-turned-actress Sharbari Raina. As Rayna battles with her crush, shaky employment status and dithers about signing up for domesticity with the approved-by-her-parents Sid Bose, of the multi zero pay package and three-bedroom house, she discovers that life has its own plans…

The book is a fun read, and here’s what folks have to say about it and my writing.

“…after a long time, I have come across a book which kept me restless till I completed it. The book really ends in the last two pages, rather than many contemporary books whose conclusion one is able to understand beforehand.” – Sudatta Mukherjee

“…the author narrates the story in a refreshingly straightforward manner and infused with doses of wit and humour.”b00k r3vi3ws

Manral interjects her story with bon mots at the most unexpected times and that aspect of her writing is what I enjoyed the most in this book as well at her first book, The Reluctant Detective.” –Shunali Shroff

“Kiran’s writing style is witty, humorous and makes you think. She has a penchant for making even the most mundane, interesting because of the razor sharp observations, served with a dollop of dead-pan humour.”
Preeti Shenoy, bestselling author

“I enjoy reading Kiran’s books. The genre of easy reading and happy reading with inevitable style, she keeps you hooked on the book from the first page to the last.”

 Tisca Chopra, actor

Here’s the link to order the book:

http://www.amazon.in/Deals/b/ref=nav_topnav_deals?ie=UTF8&node=1592905031

Hope you enjoy it.

 

 
     
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My story begins with my mother’s…


My story begins with my mother’s story, as my son’s story will begin with mine.

August 13, 2014

This article is part of the #BeingaModernIndianWoman archive, which is being launched on 15th August on Indian Independence Day. This storytelling initiative celebrates womanhood and freedom of (responsible) expression, and it’s a stepping stone to further economic opportunities for women in India. Please visit http://beingamodernindianwoman.in/ and facebook.com/beingamodernindianwoman for more information.

When I was nine, my father passed away. This was 1982. In the morning, he set off for an office picnic. In the evening, they brought home his dead body. A sudden heart attack, they said. There is nothing crueler than the death of someone you haven’t had a chance to say good bye to, I still dream of opening the door to my father standing outside, older, greyer, but undiminished by death and the afterlife, I dream of an opportunity to finally say my goodbyes, to tell him how life panned out for us, for my mother and for me, after he passed away so abruptly, leaving us with nothing; absolutely nothing, barring of course, the memory of being a complete family.

Growing up without a father is difficult, more so if you are a girl. That’s what they say. That’s what I know. We were now, a single parent family. An anomaly back in those days when divorces were rare, single parents were unheard of and single people never adopted.

My mother was 42 when she was widowed, the same age as my father was when he died. It was a difficult age to pick up the reins of a life, deal with the grief and get down to the task of earning a living. Family support was non-existent. No one wants encumbrances, and my mother had too much steel in her spine to allow herself to be dependent on anyone. So if there were days we went without food, or survived on bread and tea, we did. We survived.

In middle class suburbia, moms stayed at home while dads went to work. Moms kept a hot piping meal ready when kids returned from school, and a cup of tea with hot snacks ready when their husbands returned from work, they kept the house spic and span, kept the clothes eye blindingly white with fabric whitener. Any moms who worked generally worked as teachers, to ensure they were back home in time to supervise the children.

My dad was only 42 when he passed away. He had no history of heart disease. To say he had not planned for the future or a future without him around would be an understatement. He lived large and extravagantly, and when he died, we were not only left penniless, but also homeless, because we lived in bank quarters. He was an officer with a Nationalized bank, and my mother got, on compassionate grounds, a job with the same bank, albeit in a clerical capacity. It was some months before we were allotted clerical staff quarters. One has known what it is to live out of suitcases, to scale down from a two bedroom home to a one room kitchen, to go from eating out once a week, to feasts on Sundays, to eating cold khichdi every single day because there was no money for groceries and the gas cylinder had to be used sparingly. It hasn’t been, in any capacity, an easy childhood. Thinking back, at 43 now, I don’t think I would have had it any other way.

My mother began work and had a two hour commute each way to get into work, for a full work day. Until then, she had been a housewife, who managed home and hearth and didn’t even do the banking for the family or handle any of the papers. Returning to the work sphere, she had to cope with learning to negotiate the long, unsparing commute, managing a difficult tween and an even more difficult adolescent (and I am not proud to admit I didn’t make things easy for her), at the age of 42, she had to learn banking work and all the ledger keeping that went with it. I remember nights when she would come home and sob, because it was something completely unfamiliar and someone, someone with the arrogance of having done the same thing for countless years before she had, would have yelled at her for not being able to understand what she was needed to do. She persevered, she worked late, she asked kinder folks to explain things to her, she made notes, and she came home and practiced her work. She worked in the bank until she was 60, and now at 74, she is easily one of the most active senior citizens I’ve seen.

Much of what one learns and passes on to one’s kids is what one picks up from one’s parents, and sometimes in my voice talking to my son, I hear my mom’s voice talking to me. Were there lessons I learnt from her that have stood me in good stead today? Of course there were and here are some.

I morphed, at age nine, into a latchkey child, someone who travelled from Goregaon, where we lived, to Bandra where I schooled, by public transport. I think we were hardier children than our children are. My son at age 10 has just about learnt to cross a road and get into a shop alone to buy things, and still cannot be trusted to get back the exact change because, by god, calculations don’t work in his head.

And of course, being a girl growing up in India, I learnt early how to deal with perverts on the bus, lechers on the street, and stalkers following me home. It taught me resilience, a confidence in my ability to deal with any situation that might arise, on my own, because back then, over thirty years ago, when I was barely nine, as now, no one ever intervenes or steps in when a girl (even a child) or a woman is being harassed on the street or on public transport. I had no self defense training but I had a sharp elbow, a compass box of pointed stuff and quick reflexes. I put them to good use. I also had a loud voice and an unflinching gaze. Lessons learnt then still come handy when I’m faced with difficult situations now. My mother would drop me, in the dark of the morning to the bus stop, put me onto the public BEST bus, go home, make the lunch, put it in the fridge, get ready, leave for work. She would return in the evening, at 7 pm. I would be home by 2 pm, open the door with my key, take the food out of the refrigerator and eat it cold because I wasn’t allowed to turn the gas on, and this was the pre-microwave era. I can still eat food straight out of the fridge and feel strangely comforted by it. I never learnt to cook or keep house, and still don’t do either competently. I was never told that as a woman I would be required to do so once I got married. I can still let myself into an empty house and not panic about being alone. I can walk down the street and know that I own it, metaphorically, because I learnt young that the vibe you give off as you walk can deter potential predators.

Thankfully Mumbai, where I live, is still a city that is kind to women, one travels at odd hours and one does not think twice before stepping out of the home. And there is a sense of knowing that one is equipped, mentally, to deal with whatever one might encounter, pleasant or otherwise. I learnt that from my mother, that there is no one to watch over you, you learn to watch out for yourself in this city. You learn to fight your battles, claw your way through the day with a grit and determination to survive. I never ever learnt that there was something I couldn’t do because I was a girl. I was surprised to realise that, as I grew, some girls believed that they couldn’t do so many things because of their gender. Go out of the home late, travel out of the city alone, take up a job, earn a living, all these were things I took for granted. Gender was never an issue.

My mother was a teacher before she got married, and she gave up her job in order to care for home and hearth. When my father passed away, getting back into the workplace was really difficult for her, as was managing everything that one takes for granted in the pre-internet online era, such as paying bills by standing in never ending queues, getting the banking work done, and back in the day of rationed groceries available through the neighbourhood ration shop, taking time out to go to the ration shop to get the month’s supply of provisions. It made me aware of the necessity to constantly keep in touch with the workplace, to keep one foot in the professional world and to know how things are done, never mind if one didn’t actually need to do it oneself. Which is why, when I gave up full time work when my son was born, I did continue freelance writing and consulting in a bid to keep in touch with my work skills and the professional work of print journalism. Ex-colleagues shifted jobs, moved cities, moved up the ladder, while my son grew from a babe in the arms, to a trail of destruction and mayhem wreaking toddler, to a riotous boy and now to a surly rebellious tween. I moved from freelance feature writing to consulting to now, writing fiction.

What I learnt, and what I think my mother taught me, from her leap from teaching to bank work, was the simple lesson that be willing to adapt, be willing to learn and be willing to constantly redefine what you think of yourself, your skill sets and what you enjoy doing. And a gift she gave me was the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do with my life, the belief that I had a dream worth following and the courage to follow that dream, that of writing books. It took me time to get there, I got off track for a while, but my mother never ever lost focus of my dream. “You said you wanted to write books,” she would say out of the blue, “Where is your book?” Finally, when my 40 birthday approached, I caved in and got down to writing fiction. My first book was published when I was 41 and my second was published this year.

You are never too old to follow your dreams, it took my mother to remind me, that we can keep our dreams on the back burner at times when life takes over, but we mustn’t lose sight of them completely, we need to take them out, air them occasionally, and eventually breathe life into them and make them real. Because what worth are dreams that don’t empower us to make an effort to turn them into reality.

There are lessons you learn and lessons that life teaches you. I’ve learnt a lot from my childhood, and god knows it didn’t feel tough at the time, because one was living it. The perception that it was rather tough came later, when I compare how I grew up to how my son is growing.

Mitch Albom said everyone has a story, and everyone’s story begins with their mother’s story because that is where they begin from. My story begins with my mother’s story, as my son’s story will begin with mine. And it is my mother’s story that makes me realise just how much strength we have within us when we have to draw upon ourselves, when we have to survive, when we have no option but to carry on living, even though we might be crumbling within us. It is my mother’s story that makes me realise that what they say is true, the most mild mannered of women can be a tigress when it comes to her child. I know I am. I know my mother was. And I know that her life is what has been the training ground for mine, in every which way.

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A review of Once Upon A Crush on All In A Day’s Work


Originally posted on Kiran Manral:

Book: Once Upon A Crush
Author: Kiran Manral
Genre: Fiction
Published by: Jufic Books, 2014
No. of pages: 224
Cover price: Rs. 195

The cover design of ‘Once Upon a Crush’ with slightly smudged heart and red-coloured lipstick, sets the mood for the fun, light-hearted pleasure that this book is.
The red and gold cover is playful – the lipstick, the heart, the smudge and the colour.

Rayna De is the main protagonist of ‘Once Upon a Crush’. She’s independent, about to turn 30 and has not love life. Her parents are after her to get married.
She has a crush on Deven Ahuja – Rayna compares him to Edward Cullen and Mr Darcy. Oh, and he has cheekbones comparable to Benedict Cumberbatch.

The stage is thus set for the emotions and the insecurities of being attracted, of getting to know someone. The hesitation of not asking a question frankly…

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