Q. You are a glorious global sensation earning the unique tag of a spiritual urban yogi devotional singer, share with us your fairytale storybook?
That’s very kind! Who comes up with all these tags? That’s all they are, tags, and as a soul, my story continues to unfold in unexpected ways. Some fantastical and some thought-provoking. Being spiritual is a constant quest, and whilst I am very grateful to be able to have learnt Vedanta and studied Philosophy so I can offer some insight, we are all students in life and those who preach probably need to learn the most. My life is anything but a fairytale — as a teenager, I had this fixed notion of how I expected my life to turn out and certain milestones I would effortlessly reach. My life hasn’t panned out like that, to some people I have achieved a lot but I feel behind in so many ways. My fairytale is to live in grace and accept this moment for what it is. Each turn in our life represents an opportunity for us to evolve. The good and bad experiences are chapters, and the fairytale resides in our ability to find our contentment in the chaos.
Q. You emphasise Spirituality 2.0, a guide for modern-day practices for millennials like yourself. Tell us more about it?
Spirituality 2.0 is about simplifying spiritual practices and creating achievable targets in your daily life. Controlling your social media usage, spending five minutes calling an elderly family member and showing you care, writing in a gratitude book, taking time out for meditation and most importantly being careful whom you associate with. Now, through social media, you can become ‘friends’ with almost anyone but make sure you have positive influences in your life and focus inward. Remember in Shakespeare’s play, Iago brought the downfall of a great leader like Othello. In the ‘Mahabharat’, Karna’s association with Duryodhana cost him his life. Keep your circle small, we do not need to be popular, we need to earn respect. There is a lot of distraction outside of us, quickly weed out anything that doesn’t serve a higher purpose.
Q. You’re a stunning spiritual yogi who has managed to shine and be supremely impactful in a male-dominated world. What are your views on this?
I have nothing to do with being stunning. I come from very attractive parents, 100% of people who know me would argue my mother is far more beautiful and my dad is a blue-eyed Indian so that says it all. I am mediocre in comparison. You have to shine from within, and if you are a woman, you make sure you fight the good fight for your place on the world stage. Why are spiritual/religious preachers predominantly male? I don’t get it, and when I don’t get something, I go after it and change it.
Q. You follow and look up to all the classic admired masters and gurus, Morani Bapu, Sister Shivani of Brahma Kumaris, Swami Ji Chidanand Saraswati of Parmath Niketan Ashram. How have their teachings benefited you in your varied career choices, as we add in a motivational speaker and a talented writer?
It’s really simple, Morari Bapu teaches you ‘satya, prem and karuna’, truth, love and compassion. I try to imprint those three words in my mind and live by them. He is a fantastic orator and uses humour and storytelling to engage his audience. Sister Shivani teaches you the power of positive thoughts and taking ownership of your own feelings and emotions. Her style of teaching is very logical which is what I love. Swami Ji of Parmarth Niketan teaches you to talk less and do more, just look at his clean up Ganga initiative. Preaching, motivating, writing, is not enough — you need to back them up in action. With all these spiritual/religious influences, I gravitated to devotional music and the rest was a natural transition.
Q. What advice can you give future thought leaders and visionary’s with dreams and stars in their eyes yet battling with the Covid world we reside in?
Covid-19 pandemic won’t be forever, use this time to work on yourself. I spent seven months living alone and I created a tightly disciplined day for myself that enriched my body, mind and intellect. Don’t wallow in self-pity because it’ll waste your time, which is so very precious. Every time you feel you ‘cant’ do something, think what you ‘can’ do and run with it, you never know what will manifest. I would also add you can’t plan to be a thought leader. Just be authentic, fearless and true to yourself and others. That authenticity makes you extremely unique and attractive to the world, this will open doors without you having to even push. Also, give up caring what people think — if you live your life by the standards of others, you will never reshape the world. Be bold enough to trust yourself. Lastly, continuously educate yourself. That doesn’t mean just reading about successful leaders but observing everyday life. I love watching my peonies bloom, I smile as they slowly unfurl a little more every day, no rush, no fuss but perfectly timed with their internal rhythm. There is perspective in everything.
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Asha Parekh to become 52nd recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award
The 68th national film awards will be presented on September 30 in accordance with the more than 60-year-old tradition by President Droupadi Murmu and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, two years after the Covid-19 outbreak put the coveted event on hold.
As the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2020, veteran actress Asha Parekh becomes the 52nd recipient of the honour. The previous Dadasaheb Phalke award was given to the star of southern cinema Rajinikanth.
“Honoured to announce that the Dadasaheb Phalke selection jury has decided to recognise and award Asha Parekh ji for her exemplary lifetime contribution to Indian cinema,” Thakur said.
Industry icons Asha Bhosle, Hema Malini, Udit Narayan, Poonam Dhillon, and TS Nagabharana are members of the Dadasaheb Phalke committee.
She worked in more than 95 films and was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification from 1998-2001,” Thakur added. Parekh was also conferred with Padma Shri in 1992.
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which was founded in 1954, is now in charge of organising the awards, which fall under the purview of the I&B ministry, for the first time.
The government consolidated four film organisations in March of this year, giving the NFDC full authority over all matters relating to the production of documentaries and short films, the management of film festivals, and the preservation of films.
In keeping with tradition, Hon’ble President Draupadi Murmu will be conferring the National Film awards this year,” NFDC MD Ravinder Bhakar said. “It is an honour for the winners and I congratulate them.”
Eminent leaders and figures from the film industry make up the national awards jury, which is chaired by Vipul Shah and includes Dharam Gulati, Sreelekha Mukherjee, GS Bhaskar, S Thangadurai, Sanjeev Rattan, Karthik Raja, VN Aditya, Viji Thampi, Thangadura, and Nishigandha as members.
The ceremony is taking place four years after President Ram Nath Kovind only delivered 11 of the 137 awards, breaking with convention, which saw more than 50 award recipients skip the 65th National Film Awards ceremony in protest.
The remaining prizes were given out by former information and communication minister Smriti Irani and minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore.
In 2018, 70 award recipients had expressed their intention to boycott the event in an open letter to protest the cancellation of the award presentation. However, a number of the letter’s signatories, including the singer KJ Yesudas and the filmmaker Prasad Oak, later turned up. The honorees clarified in their letter that their action was not a “boycott,” but rather a demonstration of their displeasure with the President’s choice.
TFalguni Pathak on Nehar Kakkar’s recreation of her song: ‘Acche se karo, faltu kyu bana dete ho?’
As Falguni Pathak’s ongoing feud with Neha Kakkar, the veteran singer has said that she is comfortable with her songs being recreated.Recently, Neha Kakkar has recreated Falguni’s famous song, Maine Payal Hai Chhankai, on which Pathak has said in her new interview that she is fine with her songs getting adapted, but they should be done in a right way and shouldn’t be spoilt.Falguni had shared fans’ posts on Instagram Stories in which they had slammed Neha for ‘ruining’ the former’s 1990s hit song. The singer indirectly showed her disapproval of Neha’s version, titled O Sajna. The original song was released in 1999 and featured Vivan Bhatena and Nikhila Palat in the music video. The song was played out as a puppet show in a college fest and was a massive hit.In her interview with Mirchi Plus, Falguni said, “Adapt karo lekin acchi tarike se karo. Remixes ban rahe hai aajkal aur acche bhi ban rahe hai jo humlog bhi stage pe gaate hai. Lekin usko acchi tarah se use karo na. Tum usko faltu kyu bana dete ho (Adapt but do it well. There are so many remixes being made well and even we sing it on stage. But do it well. Why do you spoil it)?”Speaking on her song Maine Payal Hai Chhankai, Falguni said, “I think the song came out in 2000 and till date, it is really fresh. Even when I perform the song now, people give us the same reaction and love that they had on the first day. Usko recreate karo, usme alag rhythm do, make it modern lekin achi tarike se karo na. Uski jo beauty hai, jo simplicity hai usko mat touch karo (Do recreate it, give it a different rhythm, make it modern but do it well. Don’t touch the beauty and simplicity of the song).”Recently, Neha welcomed Falguni on the stage of Indian Idol season 13. In a video shared by Sony TV, Neha called the singer ‘legendary Falguni ma’am’. Falguni sang Garba songs as all from judges Neha, Himesh Reshammiya and host Aditya Narayan played dandiya around her.
Aishwarya Rai’s reaction on north versus south cinema debate
Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai, who is busy in promotion of her upcoming film, Ponniyin Selvan: I, was asked about her thoughts on the debate around north versus south films recently. She said that right now was an ‘amazing time’ for Indian cinema as the audience wants to see films ‘from every part’. Many south Indian films, like RRR, Pushpa: The Rise and KGF Chapter 2, have become pan-Indian hits in recent times. Aishwarya said it was ‘evident’ that people are lapping up cinema from across the country.Aishwarya said that the language barrier is being broken amongst the entire country and films from all regions and languages are being welcomed by the entire nation. Over the past few months, many non-hindi films have been box office blockbusters over hindi films. Films such as SS Rajamouli’s RRR, starring Jr. NTR, Ram Charan, Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn, were made in Telugu and then dubbed and released into several languages.At an event promoting Ponniyin Selvan: I in Delhi, Aishwarya Rai spoke about films from south India having a successful run in movie theatres across the country. Aishwarya was reported saying, “It’s an amazing time right now, where we need to break away from the typical way of looking at artists and cinema. I think it’s a great time right now, where all these barriers have gone down. People know our cinema nationally. In fact, they are wanting to see the cinema from every part.” The actress further added, “I think this is finally the perfect time where it has become accessible nationally through so many platforms. Everybody can view cinema for what it is, across India. So, I think we need to kind of break away from this conventional way of thinking and help our viewers, our audiences, and our readers also to not slide into that typical way of viewing. Art has always been there, found the audience, and has been appreciated; so, have the artists. But avenues were limited. Today is a great time when it has become accessible to everybody. And proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? It is so evident that people are embracing and lapping up cinema from across the country.”
The perils of ‘perfectionism’
A ploy overused by interviewees, over countless job interviews and employee appraisals, has been to disguise a strength as a weakness. As the interviewer asks the candidate to share his or her greatest weakness, pat comes the reply, ‘I am a perfectionist’. While the interviewee hopes to convey the impression of a meticulous go-getter, it has dawned on me over the years that ‘perfectionism’ can indeed be a serious derailer to people’s careers and life trajectories. This is a roadblock that can be overcome; however, what makes it difficult is that society and work environments often actually laud this trait.
The early years of a person’s career are usually shaped by a focus on achievement and individual contribution. The emphasis is on being reliable, on being down in the trenches, on dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. ‘Perfectionists’ usually thrive in this environment. But as they get promoted and rewarded, and their responsibilities expand, they need to evolve to lead through impacting and influencing others, rather than through individual contribution alone. Many ‘perfectionist’ managers struggle to make this transition as they are forced to navigate an imperfect world. Using terms from McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory, those whose deep underlying motives are achievement-driven rather than power-driven, find this transformation particularly difficult. ‘Perfectionists’ are also often very harsh on themselves and their teams, setting themselves up for burn-out.
Another phenomenon which often afflicts perfectionists is that of ‘analysis paralysis’. A drive to get everything perfect often translates into a deterministic view of the universe, less tolerant of grey areas, and of ambiguity or uncertainty. This comes in the way of decision-making. I have seen this at close quarters during my years in the investment world, where fund managers would sometimes obsess over getting inconsequential details right in a spreadsheet, while not wanting to ‘bite the bullet’ and come to terms with the inherent unpredictability of investments. As the saying goes, “it is better to be imperfectly right than perfectly wrong”. The rapidly-evolving world that we face today often requires decisions to be made based on emergent patterns rather than perfectly mapped-out parameters.
I often come across budding writers who lament that they have gotten nowhere with their manuscript because each aborted writing session ends with the realization that they have fallen short of the lofty standards they have set for themselves. This mirrors my own experience from my early writing days. While the quest for perfection can spur people on to excellence, more often than not, it instead ends up becoming a noose around the neck. As the feeling of dissatisfaction and being ‘not okay’ becomes progressively shrill, we end up procrastinating and often abandoning the creative pursuit altogether.
Our creative instincts thrive in a free-flowing non-judgmental environment. The harsh glare of criticism and perfectionism serve as an unwelcome ‘censor’, chilling the creative drive and often killing it altogether. It is actually the fear of failure that masquerades as ‘perfectionism’, the lofty standards a convenient excuse to delay having the rubber hit the road.
None of the above is meant to be apologia for shoddy work, or for not striving for excellence. However, to quote British politician Rishi Sunak, “It’s getting that balance right between understanding every aspect of something and then realizing I have done as much as I need to on that and my time is better spent elsewhere”.
What then is the way forward for someone who has the traits for a perfectionist?
At a practical level, whether it is writing a book or preparing a work presentation, we need to be okay with imperfect beginnings, and stop putting pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time. While writing, for instance, till I finish the first draft of my book, I try to switch off my ‘inner critic’. As the saying goes, ‘don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’.
At a deeper level, it involves a true acceptance of oneself; recognizing one’s strengths and capabilities, but also accepting oneself as a person with flaws, as someone who is bound to encounter failures and make mistakes. In this process of accepting ourselves, we accept others too, and pave the way for deep, lasting connections. Shedding the illusion of perfection is a small price to pay for this reward.
S.Venkatesh is the bestselling author of AgniBaan and KaalKoot, a leadership coach and an investor who has held key positions with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Macquarie. He writes about mindfulness and its link to creativity, business and wealth.
Raising a toast to handmade fruit preserves
It was almost three decades back when India heard the footsteps of artisanal handcrafted hundred per cent naturally preserved ‘fruit conserves’.
An English woman married to an Indian who hailed from Bhuira, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, started on a very small scale with multi-fruit and bitter marmalades and preserves with chunks of luscious fruit that eschewed synthetic colours, flavours and preservatives. But people’s palates were not used to the natural taste of these products. They were addicted to brilliantly coloured (artificially) and cloyingly sweet mixed fruit jam. Even single fruit jams strawberry, mango were enhanced with added (synthetic) flavours. It was about the same time that Karen Anand started her venture of gourmet foods near Pune. Both Bhuira and Karen’s kitchen attracted a small but discerning clientele. Karen catered to the uppermost crust of First Class passengers in International airlines and super deluxe hotels. Bhuira carved a niche for itself by introducing new flavour blends and attracting the upwardly mobile Indians who had acquired a taste of homemade preserves and were worried about the added sugar in mass-produced jams.
The words preserves and conserves gained currency during the 1990s to differentiate these from the run of the mill jams. Tatas had come out with an interesting strawberry preserve but it failed to make a mark. After another decade ITC of Welcome Group Hotels fame came up with a line of preserves and conserves that was branded as a product far superior to ordinary jams.
All this while the battle for brands was fought in the marketplace and popular Indian labels changed hands and multinationals with muscle pushed out smaller competitors. Several factors combined to impart a powerful thrust to artisanal fruit preserves. Sustainable became a buzzword. ‘Farm to Fork’ was another phrase that captured the popular imagination. Small once again became beautiful and conscientious citizens were inspired to support village-level enterprises that generated livelihood at the grassroots. Dr Paul set up a women’s cooperative Umang near Ranikhet and trained local women to produce high-quality jams, jellies and pickles from fruits sourced locally. These were sold under the Kumaoni label.
Inspired by these pioneers a group of youngsters tired of corporate life set up Him Nectar Foods in 2015 in Bageshwar and slowly stepped out to the village Pilkholi near Ranikhet. Sushma Nambiar and Jatin Khetrapal remember gratefully the advice and assistance rendered by Bhuira to them when Him Nectar was experiencing birth pangs. Finally, a small factory cum training unit was established in Kalika amidst a cluster of fruit trees. Another corporate dropout who had set up an NGO Himjoli placed his confidence in the new hundred per cent natural product.
This region is famous for its apricots, plums and pears and there was a time when apples were abundant in the Chowbatia Gardens.
Luscious Alexander Pears, Dark Purple Centosa Plums and many varieties of apricots–morpankh, badami and gola are sourced locally. This is the philosophy followed by Bhuira and Karen’s Kitchen. Upgrade skills of local villagers, empower women and come out with a product that matches the global quality.
There are many chefs who use these natural conserves in innovative dishes. CauldronSisterss in Jaipur delight their guests with Alphonso Kalakand made with Alphonso Preserve.
The duo Ratika and Richa prepare natural fruit preserves (strawberries, bael, phalsa, jamun) to enliven cakes and other desserts.
Nishant Choubey loves to work with natural homemade handcrafted in small batches fruit preserves. He firmly believes that marmalades and jams may have been accompaniments to buttered toasts, the use of preserves is restricted only by the chef’s imagination. He has used chunky apricot preserve in his rendering of khubani ka meetha in Michelin plated Indus in Bangkok and has worked the magic of Jamun preserve in smoothie fortified with oats.
Many people harbour the misconception that handcrafted preserves are an exorbitant and unaffordable extravagance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Top of the line products are available in the range of Rs. 275- 375 for a 330 g jar. You need a small blob–a teaspoon full to taste the nectar!
Ripple effects are clearly visible. It’s an idea whose time has come. From Himalayan hinterland to Sahyadris and the Nilgiris Ranikhet, Pune and Bangalore the preference for artisanal fruit conserves is registering steady growth. The post-2000 generation is given threading labels carefully– ‘nature identical’ flavours are losing ground. Who needs chemical preservatives if you can keep the small jar after opening it in the refrigerator?
Some exotic flavours are also available in sampler baskets in mini jars. Like the resurgence of other handicrafts, this trend is most likely to stay with us.
Archana Pooran Singh desires to follow Neena Gupta’s plea for work.
Actor Archana Pooran Singh who is currently seen in The Kapil Sharma show has revealed that she is ‘dying to perform’. She expressed her frustration at people knowing only one aspect of her craft.
Popularly, she is known for her comic role in the classic movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, in which she performed the role of Professor Ms Briganza. She developed such a strong comedic reputation, thanks to the role that even 20 years later, she hasn’t been offered a serious role.
The actor added that she can do so much more in acting than comic roles, she can cry and make people cry too. She said the side of her is yet to be explored and this will happen someday.
Archana said, “That chhaap (image) is so solid. Also, a lot of people feel that what they should offer me after Ms Briganza. It’s been almost 25 years since Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was released. And the character is still following me. People also feel that I am best suited only for comedy. As an actor, I feel deprived, cheated and I have been left yearning for good roles.”
She stated that she is considering approaching filmmakers for work in the same way that actress Neena Gupta did. Neena, once posted on her Instagram asking the filmmakers for work as she wasn’t offered any roles in a long time and was sitting at home. After this, she got great opportunities and delivered a blockbuster film, ‘Badhai Ho.’
Archana made her film debut with Abhishek and then featured in Jalwa opposite Naseeruddin Shah. She was also part of several films such as Agneepath (1990), Saudagar (1991), Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Aashiq Awara (1993), and Raja Hindustani (1996). Fans saw her in comedy roles such as Love Story 2050, Mohabbatein, Krrish, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Masti, De Dana Dan and Bol Bachchan.
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