Thursday, August 25, 2016

11 ways to say "No" to gossip

Let’s get to the point. Gossip is woven into the fabric of our lives, whether we like it or not. We attract it, indulge in it, abhor it. It follows us around as we make our way around the office (if you have gossipers there); peeps out from across the wall, when we live in tightly-knit communities with glass houses and time spooling out in luxurious swirls. It can follow us around like a faithful puppy, hold us captive like a dress two sizes small, remind us how painful it can sometimes be, like a shoe that's too tight.


We get chastised for indulging in gossip, or even for attracting it. And if you let it, it can tie you up in knots, making you flounder with self-doubt at every step. So what do you do, when the tentacles of gossip promise to hold you in its cold embrace? Whatever you do, don't spend too much of your precious time getting a headache or feeling desperately low. 

Here’s what I do when gossip comes calling:

1. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, precious life?” – Mary Oliver. Write this and put it up around the house. It’s true isn’t it, that the time we have on earth is precious and it makes absolutely no sense frittering it away, fretting about what others think of us or expect out of us.

2. Spread joy. Like anyone, I often get bothered when a scrap of gossip is thrown my way. But I do understand that the gossip-creators may get some sort of happiness from their flirtation with negativity. So if this spreads joy in someone’s life, if gossiping about me gives someone something to do, as worthless as it may be, then so be it. As long as they are happy and I am happy, that’s all that really matters.

3. Stay inspired. In my work as a journalist, I often meet people who are making a change in this society, by working towards a cause or helping others. It’s amazing what some people do with their time. We all have 24 hours, but while some spend it gossiping or worrying too much about what others say, there are those who are making a huge difference in this world. And I realize that I have a choice about what I can do with my time, and I graciously choose the latter.

4. Be grateful. I have so much of gratitude for what I have – my family, my talents and creativity, a certain sense of grounding and spirituality. I would be a fool to let any of this get tarnished because of what others expect or talk about me.



5. Acknowledge the suffering in the world. While I do not enjoy reading newspapers full of calamity reports, I am well aware of the suffering that is a daily part of this world and the lives of fellow humans. Just this acknowledgement can put things in perspective and I understand how self-created issues like gossip are.

6. You are the boss of you. I’m known to be a bit of a rebel, but really, I don’t believe that anything negative that anyone says about me, should make me change my ways (unless it’s harmful). Others’ opinions are just that – opinions and that’s where I like to keep them, at an arm’s distance.


7. What others think of you is none of your business. I mean really, if it’s their business, why should you really pay much heed to it anyway? We can’t control others' thoughts and words, and also, this is a free country, so just turn the other way and find other meaningful things to do.

8. Stay loose (i.e don't get uptight about it). Can tying yourself up in knots, worrying about what people will think stop others from thinking or talking? Since it can’t, lead life on your own terms. As long as you’re kind and not going out of your way to hurt anyone, everything should be okay.

9. Find things to do that involve your passions. Art, social work, writing, craft, yoga – invest your time in positive things, and you’ll see the difference it makes.

10. Stop the curiosity cycle. Do we need to know what others are saying about us behind our backs? Does that enrich our lives in anyway? If it doesn’t, the next time a whiff of gossip comes riding on the north wind, just turn away and find something else to talk about.

11. And lastly, what you don’t know, can’t hurt you.

Tell us how you dismiss gossip, at our Facebook Page.

#gossip #toxic #staypositive #happiness #beyourself

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to pair shirts with saris – 8 tips to get you started

Who said that shirts can only be worn with a pair of pants or denims?? As crazy as it may sound, shirts pair up well with 6-yards of gorgeousness aka the sari. They not only notch up your sari style tremendously but also make you stand out in a sea of pretty tailored blouses and carefully put-together sari ensembles.


Here are my tips on diving right into this quirky sari style.

1. Look around your closet for shirts that are a snug fit. To create any sari style, you don’t have to spend a fortune and you’ll be amazed by what you already own that you can re-purpose and use to create new looks. For this shirt + sari combo, I like to pull out those shirts of mine that belonged to my pre-mom life. They’re a tad too snug to be worn with pants and this makes them the perfect little things to be teamed up with saris.

2. Choose shirts in solid colors to go with printed/striped/patterned saris, while your printed shirts can go well with your plainer saris. Note: Do not wear patterned shirts with printed saris as it’ll all get too busy and crowded.


3. If your shirts are long, just tuck them into your petticoat, and then drape the sari.

4. If you have a figure to flaunt, you can even wear a short shirt and drape your sari with the pallu in the front.

5. Try teaming your sari and shirt ensemble with a belt.


6. Try wearing a white or black shirt with a rich silk sari. Alternatively, wear a jewel-colored silk shirt with a crisp cotton sari or a breezy Chanderi.

7. Accessorize this outfit with a long string of beads and a big, round bindi, if you please. Avoid a choker-style necklace or anything that’s close to the neck because you don’t want the shirt collar and the necklace jostling for attention.


8. Choose a pair of Punjabi juttis or the traditional nut brown Kohlapuri chappals to complete your outfit. If heels are what you prefer, a pair of wedges or boots will look good.

Now strut out in style and be ready to stand out!

For more sari styling tips, here's the entire series.

Hop onto our Facebook Page to join the conversation.

#saristyle #100sareepact #sariblouse #shirtblouse #sareelove

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Help (get it done or do it yourself?)

The Help – it’s something we women never get bored of of discussing. We like to examine this topic from every angle, hardly every tiring of this conversation, even if we often get tired of the very people whom we are talking about.


In a large percentage of the Indian Diaspora, maids are often a necessity. And it’s especially so in our community - with sprawling old bungalows to maintain, numerous parties to be thrown and busy social calendars, maids are deemed as a must. These maids not only clean the house and utensils, but often babysit children, getting them ready for school, feeding them their meals or putting them down for a nap, freeing up time for the moms to attend to their social commitments. While I am not a very social person and would rather hole up in my house than invest my time in parties and meetings, I wouldn’t mind some help around the house and in the kitchen either, and with a patch of babysitting, especially on those days, when my little one turns into a shrieking banshee.


While I’ve hired a gamut of people in the past three years, since my son was born, for both – housework and a spot of babysitting, I have been running into ‘problem people’ every single time. Or maybe, I just don’t ‘manage’ them right. And so, I’ve faced HR issues so myriad in dealing with maids, that I’d probably put an HR manager in a MNC to shame.

From hygiene issues to behavioral problems, I’ve seen it all in the last few years. And this hasn’t been sitting pretty with me. Dealing with hostile energies and a bucket load of other people’s (i.e. theirs) problems has been weighing me down, making me impatient and short-tempered.

And this makes me wonder what real woman power and control is all about. Is it about dealing with issues created by other women all the time? Or, is it about reclaiming a measure of your sanity and space by relying on the help at the end of your arm, even if it means one has to juggle all the roles i.e. mom, professional, wife, social butterfly, more vigorously?

After watching my mother do every bit of her own housework for the past 20 years and still make time for her work and family, I wonder if in our country we rely a bit too much on maids to clean our own house, cook our meals and look after our children.
I mean sure, if the person helping you is more of a help than a headache, then why not? But if it’s the latter, does it make sense to put up with everything to save ourselves a few hours of housework?

At this point, I worry about being able to do all of it – the housework, cooking and child care, the deadlines and the assignments, the social engagements and the parties, with minimal help. But after watching all those who take pride in doing their own housework and still managing to get a life beyond it, I’m guessing, that it may take a while to get used to depending on my own two hands, but it will soon become a muscle memory.


It will become a habit that just might begin to feel more freeing. It may also save time and energy that otherwise goes into dealing with the negativity that some of them shovel in by the hour. And probably, I’ll even be able to get more work done because of the simple philosophy – the more work you have, the more you can get done. And not to mention the workout it gives you – the scrubbing and cleaning. I’m also hoping that seeing his parents do most of their work, will help my son form a better work ethic.

Here’s a great piece by another writer where she tackles this topic with gusto.

Do you do your own housework? What kind of tips do you have for managing housework and your professional life and parenting? How have you gone maid-minimal and how has this taught your children to help around the house?

Drop in at our Facebook Page to say hello!

#housework #domesticity #housecleaning #help

Monday, August 15, 2016

3 types of gorgeous flat footwear to wear with your sari

Now that you’ve got your blouses, accessories and jewellery figured out, let’s talk about shoes (here's the entire sari style series). I'm sure, a lot of you could beat Imelda Marcos when it comes to flaunting a prolific shoe collection. But the kind of shoes I’m about to talk about, may not fit into a typical shoe collector’s shelf.

This is not about Jimmy Choos and Loubotins, or pencil-thin stilettos and bling-encrusted sandals. Since I personally can’t flaunt a pair of heels more than an inch high, and flats are what my feet feel cared for in, I want to talk about the kind of flat footwear that can be teamed up with saris.


But wait, I get it. A marriage of saris and flats isn’t the kind of pairing that you might have ever imagined. What if you trip over your petticoat or sari pleat? What if it makes you look stout and not the towering diva that you thought a sari should make you look? What if your flats look well, really flat, when compared to a pair of sparkly stilettos or a pair of velvety peep-toes?

Since here at this blog, we always talk about breaking stereotypes when it comes to sari-wearing and style, let’s get right to the topic of the kind of flat footwear that’ll not only notch up your sari style but will also make your sari experience more comfortable.

3 kinds of flat footwear to wear with your saris:

Source (Pastels & Pop)

Punjabi juttis or mojri: I love these handcrafted traditional Indian flat slip-ons that are made in Punjab. Priced reasonably, you can choose from a variety of styles, depending on the kind of look that you prefer. You can go in for the ones with brocade, crystal or ghungroos in gold or silver, or revel in the embroidered ones, the kind that is my personal favorite. Then there are the designer kinds, with a variety of patterns and motifs, each more exotic than the other and priced more than the regular juttis (juttis from Pastels & Pop are drool-worthy!)).

Juttis can be worn with all kinds of saris – cotton, silk and chiffon.

Source (The Sole Sisters)

Kohlapuris: Flat leather slippers, traditionally handcrafted in Maharashtra and available in shades of camel and nut brown, these look gorgeous with all kinds of traditional outfits. You can now find slippers like the kolhapuris in a rainbow of solid colors. I personally have pairs in lime green, ice-cream pink and gold, as well as a few pairs of the traditional brown ones. Apart from being budget-friendly, these are very durable. I’ve been wearing mine for the past seven years and they’re still not scuffed. You could even go in for some of the designer kohlapuri chappals with lots of embellishments. These especially look good when teamed with crisp cotton saris or buttery soft silks.


Kutchi jootis: A handmade and embroidered variety of leather flats from the region of Kutch, these are butter soft and extremely comfortable. Ideal for the kind of days/occasions when you have to spend a lot of time on your feet, these are gorgeous to look at and if you’re a craft aficionado like me, you’re sure to crave a pair. I’m yet to find one (these are mostly available for purchase in Gujarat or in a handful of stores across India) and can’t wait to covet a pair that I can take to town. Again, these will complete any kind of sari and can be worn for any occasion.

3 tips to prevent you from tripping or stumbling when wearing flat footwear with saris:

Source (Pastels & Pop)

Wear a shorter petticoat. A long petticoat will most likely make you trip and stumble on it.

Tuck you sari pleats well. Before you tuck them into your petticoat, make sure that all your pleats are at the same length and there isn’t an errant one hanging lower than the others. Also, tuck them up a bit higher than what you would when you wear sandals with heels.

Pull up your pleats slightly with one hand if you’re climbing stairs or walking at a faster pace. This is just an added precaution to make sure that you don’t trip on your sari.

What kind of flat footwear do you like to team up with saris? Do you have any favorite brand/online store that you purchase them from?

Join the discussion about saris, style and life at our Facebook page.

#saristyle #100sareepact #sari #indianballets #jutti #kolhapurichappal #handmadeshoes

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back at work – reclaiming my writerly self

This has been a year of blogging in fits and starts. In many ways, it has been a year of doing several different things, trying out different roles - loving some of those and tolerating few of the others. The only constant through all of this has been the learning and the mothering, tangoing together through the short days and long months, keeping me grounded all through the way.

A few months ago, at the cusp of the first quarter of the year, I tried on that old role of a freelance journalist once again. That beloved role that languished in a heap, growing dusty with every passing year. So I slipped it on tentatively, like someone would a favorite old dress, wondering if mothering a toddler and whirling through the social commitments that form the maze of my days, would allow me to meet those deadlines, catch up with the work. 


Would I be able to chase those stories while chasing a little hurricane around the house? How much of the old pace of work would I be able to weave back into my already full days? Could crawl out of that comfort zone of familiar publications and reach out to newer markets across the seas?

With questions and thoughts zipping around like shooting starts in a velvety black sky, I set forth on this journey, reclaiming a piece of the old, reshaping the landscape of my ‘career’ (or what’s pieced together in shreds of time).

With encouragement from fellow travelers i.e. my husband, mother and a writer friend, I started my second journey (the first one I began at age 13 and continued till I had my son) as a journalist, eking out an adventure around the curves and bends of motherhood and military life. I queried new markets but also wrote for a few of the old ones; I seeked out stories in different places and wrote them up; I worked on doable deadlines and met them. I’ve started collecting new bylines and have been meeting some of the most remarkable people in the process. But this time around, my writing career and my method of work is quite different from its older avatar.


While I listen and learn from other writers out there, who’re earning plenty and working a lot more, here I am choosing the right publications but working at a slower, flexible pace. I write when my son’s at his playschool and play with him when school’s out for the summer. My deadlines aren’t packed tight like before because in this season of my life with a multitude of parenting and social responsibilities, this is what seems realistic. But best of all, I’m enjoying everything – the story and market hunting, the pitching and the waiting, the assignments and the writing.

I know that there will be a time in the near future when my time will open up, like a sky after a spell of silvery rain. There will be time enough for writing, teaching yoga, talking to my health coaching clients. I have all those plans stacked up. But for now, I pray for patience and take with gratitude what I can – time to craft good stories for equally interesting publications, time to draw and paint, time to learn life skills that are more precious than what we acknowledge them to be.

And this brings me to some of the other things I am doing. I started creating art – quick doodles and collages of things that fill me with magic. I’ve also started learning homeopathy and organic gardening, and children’s yoga. I’m baking more (muffins and cookies), and filling some of the other slivers of snatched leisure with yoga, barre and long walks. I’m waiting for a time when we can spend more time as a family, for this nurtures and fulfills us the best.

But for now, I offer gratitude and end with peace.

What have you filled your days with? What new paths and adventures have you explored?

#freelancewriting #freelancewriter #journalist

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

6 Types of necklaces that look great with a sari

It’s been ages since I wrote my last sari post (Here's the entire series). 
So, how have you been wearing your sari? In the casual chic way with contrasting blouses and big, round bindis, and funky jholas and the ubiquitous Kolhapuris? Do you feel more at home with your saris now that you’re bringing them out of your wardrobe more often? Has it become your go-to garment for a movie-and-dinner date or a trip to the mall?

Well, as you revel in the comfort of the soft folds of your sari, here’s another way to jazz up your casual chic look – chunky necklaces.


I know, it’s more traditional and conventional to wear a gold chain with a diamond pendant, or better still, a thick gold necklace to show up that zari border on your sari. But personally, I’m not a great believer in the power of gold, especially when it’s teamed up with a sari. I’m more partial to silver - sterling, German or oxidized. And I love beads, the ceramic as well as the wooden kinds. Add craft and a story to the mix, and I’m in jewellery heaven (you guessed it, diamonds are definitely not my best friends, though no offence if they are yours).

I also believe that you don’t need boxes full of jewellery to look good. A few well-chosen pieces can make your look sparkle, but for this you need to be very clear about what you like, what looks good on you and what you feel comfortable wearing.
I personally like to match the tradition and the legend of a sari with the casualness of an accessory. 

So here are the 6 types of necklaces that I personally like to wear with my cotton saris:

Wooden beads: I love necklaces made of wooden beads in camel and chocolate tones i.e. the original color of the wood. The chunkier the better and because of their neutral tone they can be teamed up with almost any kind of cotton or even chiffon sari. I’m known to wear them even with some of my silks.


Multiple strings of seed beads: I love those necklaces that have several strings of seed beads. The more the better. Wear a necklace like this in an earth tone, and deck up with a large bindi, kohl and lip gloss, and you’re done with your casual chick look.


Thread and silver: These kinds of necklaces have both – jewel-toned thread and a chunky silver pendant, an eclectic mix that goes very well with saris, kurtis and even handloom tops. Even if you own one or two such pieces, you can accessorize a whole range of saris, and a major part of your wardrobe, and never feel you need more.


Large beads: Ceramic or lacquer beads, often in vibrant hues like indigo, amber, vermillion and verdant green, are casual, cheerful and yet perfect for a party. I love accessories that are versatile and can be teemed with a variety of saris for as many occasions. I own several of these, most of them purchased at a very reasonable price from a gypsy woman stringing and selling her wares outside a temple in Chennai.


Metal craft: For me, the art and story behind an accessory - whether it’s a bag, footwear or piece of jewellery is just as important as the accessory itself. So of course, a metal craft necklace, like dokra, has to be an important part of my jewellery box. I own a couple of these, bought at handicraft exhibitions, and they go very well with warm-toned and zari-border saris.


Tibetan necklaces: Made of turquoise, semi-precious stones and metal, these are hand-strung by Tibetan women in the quirky little markets that you find in Tibetan colonies. They are chunky, heavy and magnificent. Wear one with a plain sari in a muted tone and you’re sure to get complements come pouring in.

These are my favorite kinds of necklaces and you’re sure to find me in any one of these when I’m in a sari.

What kind of necklaces do you like to wear? How do you accessorize your sari?
Hope over to our Facebook Page to join the discussion.

#saristyle #100sareepact


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A chat with Shruthi Rao on writing for children

A while ago, I posted an interview with Debasmita Dasgupta about her illustration projects and her adventures illustrating children’s story books. Debasmita’s latest illustration project was the gorgeous little book called ‘Avani and the Pea Plant’. My son loves this books with its simple story and lively illustrations. Since we plant vegetables in our garden and just finished gobbling the last crop of the sweetest peas, this book about how a little girl discovers a pea plant in her garden felt so familiar and endearing.

Today, I’m chatting with Shruthi Rao, the author of this story book. If I could, I’d have loved to talk with her about writing, a mom-writer’s life and children’s books over cups of steaming coffee. But since that’s not possible at this moment, I did the next best thing – invited her over to my blog for a bit of writerly gupshup.


 Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I've lived most of my life in Bangalore, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area less than a year ago. I live with my husband and a story-monster (our 8-year-old daughter). I have a post-graduate degree in Energy Engineering, and worked in the software industry for a few years. And then I changed tracks and started writing. I love books and long walks. You can find out more about me and my published work on http://www.shruthi-rao.com or on my blog http://nychthemeron.blogspot.com

What kind of things do you enjoy writing?

I've experimented with different kinds of writing, but what I love most is to write fiction. To create worlds and to populate them with characters who sometimes take on a life of their own -- it is a beautiful feeling. I also enjoy editing -- to play around with a piece of text, spruce it up and make it all shiny and impressive!

You’ve been writing for children for sometime now, right? Will you please tell us about your other books?

I haven't written for children as much as I have for adults. But yes, I've published a few children's stories here and there, and have written children's content for several NGOs. One of my stories, The Story Lady, won the Unisun-Reliance TimeOut contest in 2011, and it was converted into a picture book by Unisun Publishers.

image credit: Debasmita Dasgupta

Please tell us about your journey from thinking up the idea of Avani and the Pea Plant to getting it published.

Avani and the Pea Plant grew out of one of the stories I told my daughter when she was a toddler. She loved stories, and she was full of questions. Once she asked me how plants and trees grow without anybody planting the seed and watering them. To (partially) answer that question, I made up this story, which she loved, and asked me to narrate to her again and again. A couple of years later, for some reason, I remembered the story again, and thought it might make a good picture book. So I wrote it down and sent it to Pratham. I'm delighted with how it has turned out -- the illustrations by Debasmita Dasgupta are gorgeous.

Are you writing another story book?

A book for children, "The Secret Garden", is about to go into print. I wrote this for Nature Science Initiative. The book has been beautifully laid out, full of the most wonderful illustrations and cartoons and photographs, and I'm looking forward to its release.

What would you say to those who want to write and publish a children’s story book?

I'm a novice myself, so I can't really afford to give advice to others! But I've gathered from the picture books I've liked that it probably helps to retain a child's sense of wonder about the world around you.


Thank you Shruthi!

#storybooks #wednesdayinterview #writing
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