Sanjay Aggarwal, President, PHDCCI, hails Budget 2021-22: Highlights key takeaways - The Daily Guardian
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Sanjay Aggarwal, President, PHDCCI, hails Budget 2021-22: Highlights key takeaways

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Sanjay Aggarwal
Sanjay Aggarwal

Sanjay Aggarwal, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. Reviewing Budget 2021-22 from an up-close lens, Mr Aggarwal shared his key takeaway and expressed his confidence in India’s post-Covid economic recovery.

Highlighting his key takeaways from Budget 2021-22, Mr Sanjay said,I think the main takeaway from Budget 2021-22 is the absolute focus and unwavering focus on infrastructure. I think this is what PHD chamber had been insisting on from the past nearly one year, especially since the onset of Covid. This is what the government has decided to do, which is I think the need of the hour. We cannot be bothered about fiscal deficits or borrowings. The government is reconciled to 6.8% of fiscal deficit. The government is reconciled to 15 lakh crore of borrowings, which will not be something out of the ordinary for any other economy or comparable economy. I think we have done the right thing and I agree with the statement made in economic survey that, “You can’t put one foot on the accelerator and another on the break.” We as a trader industry have been rather hoping that the cap would be opened early. I think to an extent, in hindsight, it seems to be the right approach that now when we are confident that we are in a comparatively comfortable situation as far as the pandemic is concerned, our numbers seem good and the curve seems to have flattened, this is the right time to open up and push money into the economy. I think the best thing that the government has done is that when you spend money in infrastructure and building long-term assets, you invest money into the economy, your multiplier is very huge. The economic survey says that in circumstances we are facing today, probably the multiplier one should be considering is 2.5. Even otherwise, ofcourse, the government has done and should continue to do its bit wherever it is needed in terms of direct benefit transfers to the vulnerable sections, whether it is in cash or food grains. This 35,000 crore of allocation for Covid vaccine is again something that shows the intent of the government to not try and save on the health expenditure. This time, the health expenditure is actually more than double. These are some very positive aspects.”

Expressing his confidence on India’s post-Covid economic recovery, Mr Sanjay pointed out, “The 5 mini budgets as it is called, or the Atmanirbhar Bharat announcements, the major impact of those was to preserve the supply side of the economy. I think a lot was done. The actual cash expenditure was not too high, but, at the same time, a lot of non-budgetary measures were also there, which ensure good flow of credit to MSMEs. Although again, a 3 lakh crore of emergency credit guarantee scheme, we still have a disbursal of less than 2 lakh crore, but even that is a pretty big amount, considering the state of difficulty that the MSMEs were facing. I think all those measures were on supply side and now that the situation has improved, the government is looking very strongly at the demand side and what they need to do. We are going to have expenses where required and invest where required. The decision to disinvest, make announcements of the specific PSUs that we hope to disinvest this year, the decision to disinvest two PSU banks and one general insurance company again is a solemn intent. In addition to this, the government is also looking to form an SPV through which all the excess lad could be transferred.”

Commenting on the market’s positive reaction, Mr Sanjay said, “The markets have taken a lot of liking for the budget and it is very evident. It is one of the rare market jumps that have happened in the aftermath of the budget. The market also appreciates the sort of buoyancy that one should expect. I think one aspect that the chamber pointed out in an report on Sunday was that we have analyzed various parameters on which economies are being rated. When you look at 10 largest economies and rate them on various parameters, what we found was that only Germany is ranking higher than India. All of these numbers are being raised on the IMF numbers and this is called the international economic resilience. Our economy has shown that much resilience in the International Funds and international organisations are recognizing that.”

When asked if he feels something was missing from Budget, he shared, “There would be hundreds of things that would be missing. There is such a long wishlist, which everybody has. Even on my wishlist, it was infrastructure. From PHD Chamber side, we had been rather hoping that we would be looking at one fifth of our hundred eleven lakh national infrastructure pipeline that is supposed to be completed in five years. Last year was lost, we start counting our first year from now. Even for this, we need 22 lakh crore minimum. We have made some very good strives and good arrangements.  The chamber has also requested filling up the judicial vacancies, something which is holding up both law and order and also the ease of enforcement. The foreign investors are also looking at that.”

On a parting note, Mr Sanjay called upon the corporates and India Inc to rise up to the occasion and added, “Let us also still be clear that the first bout of vitality has to be introduced by government expenditure into the infrastructure. As that builds up the basic demand and as the industries find their capacities, which were lying idle instead of being filled up, they will be anxious to go out, invest and create more capacities. The government has taken the first step. Hopefully, as the industries seize the market scope, they will also be doing its bit.”

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Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to be active: Arpita Mehta

Fashion designer Arpita Mehta charted her journey in the world of fashion in 2009 and has since become a new-age force to be reckoned with. In an exclusive interview with NewsX, she spoke about her journey, Covid-19 pandemic, and more.

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Arpita Mehta, who won the most glamorous designer of the year in her graduating fashion show from S.N.D.T. University in Mumbai is a very talented young Indian fashion designer. She started her own label in the year 2007 after working under renowned fashion designer Manish Malhotra for two years. Now she has her own studio in Juhu, Mumbai. Arpita recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview for NewsX India A-List talking not only about how her journey started but her contributions to the pandemic situation as well.

Starting with her journey from school days Arpita told us, “To be honest I was an absolute nerd in school and was a hardworking student. But when the big question came about what I wanted to do next, I was really perplexed and I remember my parent’s reaction to fashion they were very surprised. Ten years ago people didn’t see fashion the way they see it now, so at that point of time it took me a while to convince them but I went ahead and studied fashion at S.N.D.T. University, Mumbai. After completing the three-year course from the institute, I worked with the designer for two years and after that, I launched my own label.”

With perseverance and a knack for detailing, she debuted at the Lakmé India Fashion Week Winter/Festive ’13, showcasing her very first collection, ‘Violet Garden’ that featured unique digital prints embellished with intricate mirror work detailing. And there has been no turning back since. Today, Arpita’s illustrious clientele include industrialists, fashion industry stalwarts and celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Sonam Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Alia Bhatt, to name a few.

“It was not immediately that I launched my own label, it took me a few years and more years for me to figure out what I want to do and how I want to do it. I had no contacts in the field of fashion to help me. I started from absolutely scratch and finding my own team of workers. The beginning years were complete struggles and mistakes that I made but I feel that something that helped me to decide upon what I wanted to do, what my brand should be about, what is aesthetic to take forward. The struggle of starting everything from scratch made me have my own individual personality that I built on myself and on my brand. Ten years later now, yes we are having a good time,” continued Arpita.

When asked about how she feels now after a decade in the industry and how she marked the occasion of launching her very own Flagship store, she responded, “Ten years, to be honest, was a very big milestone for me because even though it’s been ten years I feel we just haven’t been working for long. We launched our first Flagship store in Mumbai and as it was in 2020, we couldn’t make a big physical launch but we did do a digital launch and we did it well. The storehouses all our signature style lehengas to raffle sarees to mirror jackets which everyone loves, basically everything and it’s kind of a very contemporary looking store where one can spot it from outside. Apart from launching this, we even launched a very special coffee table book which is something very dear to me and it had all the inspirations of the brand from where we all were inspired by. We did get a very few known actors from Bollywood who are also friends and well-wishers of the brand to do a campaign for us. This was truly very special and once can see it online.”

Talking about her inspirations, Arpita said, “I feel constantly inspired by nature be it the sea, be it the forest or flowers. Nature is constant but even apart from that, there’s always this added element that I am inspired by which keeps changing I feel every season, every three months or every six months. Inspiration comes anywhere and anytime and I feel something that always resonates with every collection that I do, be it in the form of print or embroidery. Therefore inspiration is everywhere, you just have to be active.”

When asked about her beliefs that sets her brand apart from the others, she said, “I feel very early on my brand as in me. There is this craft of mirror work which is very true to a place in Gujarat and Rajasthan and has been around for years. What we did is because I have a sentimental connection with that being a Gujarati, and it’s something I wore a lot as a child. It kind of stuck with me and I wanted to do something different and unique that no one has been doing at that time. We took this craft and we made it in a contemporary manner. We organised the craft and presented it in such a way that one could wear obviously not just in that part but people could wear from the smallest to biggest Indian functions. I feel that this identity, the kind of embroidery and the mirror work that we used is something that has stuck with the brand right from the beginning until now and I think that is something that sets us apart from the rest.”

Talking about 2020 and how she coped up personally and professionally as well, the designer said, “I feel all of 2020 and now also in 2021 there has been a mix of emotions. Some days you are feeling anxiety and some days you are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening around and some days you feel helpless that am sitting at home. To sum it all up it has been a mix of all emotions, while you have been mentally active but physically inactive because we were all at home. But it has also given us a lot of time to reflect on our personal lives and the way we interact with other people where work is concerned or where family is concerned and I think that helped me a lot in this time to just kind of go back into the past and see where and on have we been spending our time doing all this life.”

On a concluding note, the designer shared with us about the initiative she started to help the community at large during the pandemic. “We thought of coming up with an initiative last month called ‘Wishful Wednesday’ where every Wednesday we hold a sale digitally and we reach out to all our clients all over the world. We are offering them our garments and our latest collections at a discounted price and whatever amount comes out of that sale we have been directing it towards charity. We have tied up with different NGOs who have been doing absolutely amazing work and reaching out to people who are suffering from multiple Covid issues.”

“I just felt that was the way for us to give back to our country because you know it feels helpless and therefore we thought of taking this initiative where everyone comes in together and try to do their level best on whatever they can. It’s been amazing, the responses have been overwhelming and you feel amazing about the fact that so many people have come forward,” added Arpita.

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TIGER’S RETREAT: BIG CATS HAPPILY LIVING IN MADHYA PRADESH

Their number has gone up by 218 in the past four years; in next census, it should be over 600.

Dr Shailendra Shrivastava

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The official figures of tigers in a state indicates how much forestlands it has; and how clean its environment is. Such a green milieu also shows how benevolent Mother Nature is to that state and signals its prosperity. The forests of Madhya Pradesh are echoed with the roars of tigers. Those rolls waft a message that the big cats are flourishing with vitality in a natural habitat in the state.

Madhya Pradesh lies in the heart of India. It is also home to tigers. They live here in peace. The state is not only known to the world for its culture, tradition, and historical vestiges but also for its natural resources and tigers. In the past four years, the number of tigers has shot up by 218. If their number goes up in this way, then there will be more than 660 tigers next year, when the tigers census will take place.

According to the 2018 Tiger Census, Madhya Pradesh has 526 tigers. The state had 308 big cats in 2014, nevertheless. The forest department is enthusiastic about the fact that as the number of tigers has increased in the state, one can see big cats even in those districts where there had been no tigers.

The story does not end here. Eleven districts have seen a rise in the number of tigers. The number of big cats has gone up so much in Kanha, Bandhavgarh, and Pench Tiger reserve that one can see them stroll in normal forest areas. As far as Bhopal goes, sightings of big cats in the state capital and its nearby areas are barely uncommon. There are reports about the movements of nearly one and a half dozen tigers in forests around the state capital. Similarly, 40 tigers ramble in the dark deep woods of Balaghat.

The movements of tigers caught the sight of many foresters in Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams. There had barely been any big cats in these areas. Forest officials shifted chital (spotted deer) to these areas to increase the population of tigers. The tigers are fond of hunting chital. The efforts of the forest department yielded fruits. In the past four years, people have spotted big cats in the forests of Dewas. There were no tigers in these forests earlier.

Foresters also caught the glimpse of tigers in the woods of Khandwa, Panna, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Umaria, Chitrakoot, Maihar, Sarangpur, Satna, Rewa, Katni, Shahdol, Vyauhari, and Jabalpur. People living in Mahoba district on the rims of Uttar Pradesh have spotted tigers from Panna Tiger Reserve. Similarly, many people have seen the movements of tigers on the roads of Sidhi, Chhattisgarh, Pench, and on the borders of Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

THE NUMBER OF TIGERS HAS INCREASED IN PAST TWO YEARS; 60% RISE IN RESERVED AREAS

The number of tigers has gone up since 2018 from 5% to 60%. The official figures of tigers have increased by 100 in five national parks, 24 in reserved forests, and 63 in forests in the state in the past two years. Besides, there are more than 45 cubs across the state, which will become one-year old by the time the census begins next year. The forest officials say if the number of tigers continues to increase in this way, it will be 660 when the census begins next year.

Bandhavgarh has seen the highest number of tigers in the past two years, which is 40. According to an internal survey, there were 124 big cats in Bandhavgarh National Park in 2018. Now, it has shot up to 164. Similarly, Panna Tiger Reserve had 25 tigers. Their number has now grown to 42.

Kanha National Park which had 88 tigers in 2018 has now 118. Pench Tiger Reserve had 61 tigers, whose number has gone up to 64. In the same way, Satpura Tiger Reserve had 40 tigers in 2018. Now, it has 45. Two years ago, Dubri had five tigers. The number has gone up to 13 now. The internal survey is, however, conducted on the method followed across the country to estimate the number of big cats.

REASONS FOR THE RISING NUMBER OF TIGERS IN MADHYA PRADESH

The number of tigers has increased in Madhya Pradesh because it has a more conducive atmosphere in its forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries to the growth of big cats than other states. The state provides in its national parks and in its wildlife sanctuaries an environment favourable to the breeding of tigers. They are also given proper food. In the reserves—especially in the national parks and in the tiger reserves—there are adequate arrangements for their protection. In the past decade, many villages have been displaced from the core areas of tigers such as Kanha, Panna, Pench, Satpura, and Bandhavgarh reserves.

Now that the villagers have been ousted and those areas have turned into grassy lands, the number of chitals, sambhar, blue bulls, and four-horned antelopes have increased. The tigers count on these animals for survival. The tiger is an integral part of forests. This animal plays a significant role in developing ecosystem and diversity.

This wild animal helps nature to maintain a balance between the food chain and trees. Therefore, the presence of tigers is necessary to maintain the ecosystem.

Dr Shailendra Shrivastava is retired DGP, Madhya Pradesh & Chairman, Citizens for Change Foundation.

The number of tigers has gone up since 2018 from 5% to 60%. The official figures of tigers have increased by 100 in five national parks, 24 in reserved forests, and 63 in forests in the state in the past two years. Besides, there are more than 45 cubs across the state, which will become one-year-old by the time the census begins next year.

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TRUST THE PROCESS, BIG THINGS WILL AUTOMATICALLY HAPPEN: PRATIK GAURI

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Pratik Gauri, the president of 5th Element Group, spoke about the 5th industrial revolution and much more.

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Business is a cocktail of vision, belief, and execution. A balanced mixture of these three ingredients churns out a perfect blend of a successful business. Pratik Gauri, the president of 5th Element Group, who is also known as the pioneer of the 5th industrial revolution, shared his insights on business leadership with NewsX India A-List.

Speaking about the 5th industrial revolution, Pratik said, “The 5th industrial revolution is all about using the advancements of the 4th industrial revolution such as Artificial Intelligence, 3-D printing, IoT for the betterment of humanity. The 5th industrial revolution is all about working at the intersection of purpose and profit. It means that, even as a fortune 500 company, if you have a purpose, you can maximise profit. If the company is consumer-centric, it gives the company a purpose and subsequently increased profits. Through this revolution, we also aim at using the language of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 17 global goals, in our process. The 5th Industrial Revolution agenda is to shift from a for-profit paradigm to a for-benefit paradigm.”

Pratik wears multiple hats, including that of an entrepreneur and an investor, to achieve his goal. Talking about how he is using it to achieve his vision, he said, “I have founded more than eight companies and have invested in many. I also indulge in public speaking and motivate people from the age of 19 to 30 years to take the initial steps for becoming an entrepreneur in the space of the for-benefit paradigm. At 5th Element Group, we are creating what we call Omni-win solutions. We bring four sectors—Fortune 500 companies, the government, ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices, and social entrepreneurs – that helps us create these Omni-win solutions.”

The model uses the resources of a Fortune 500 company to bring the vision to life, the government’s backing to achieve a national scale, using the social entrepreneurs to get intel on the impact scale, and the high net-worth individual for the capital. This model helps in creating omni-win solutions (everybody wins). Pratik gave the example of such a model in progress. He told NewsX, “Mission Paani by Harpic is one such project. We brought the fortune 500 company Reckitt Benckiser, and not-for-profit organisation ‘Water for People’ as execution partners and together took them to World Economic Forum. This initiative will impact millions of people in India by giving them access to clean drinking water, starting from Maharashtra.”

Covid-19 impacted businesses, both big and small, in one way or the other. However, the situation was different for Pratik. “On the personal side, Covid impacted everybody adversely. Although, it has also been a blessing in disguise for the professional work. What I have been trying to promote for decades has amplified due to the pandemic. This is because the consumer has now started believing in the power of health, power of consumer-centric, purpose-driven brands, and they realize that purpose is more important than profit,” he expressed. Talking about the three aspects of capital—Financial, Relational, and Human—Pratik further explained how his capital and his message had found a wider reach than before.

Pratik’s latest project that he is particularly proud of is a charitable sweepstakes platform called ‘Win Together’. It involves micro-donors by allowing them to become a part of these solutions, and the incentives like getting a chance to win a Tesla Cyber truck are given to people. Such projects will impact consumers through SDGs on a big scale in the coming years. Wrapping up the talk with few golden tips for budding entrepreneurs, Pratik said, “One big piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to trust the process and never lose hope. If you trust the process, big things will happen; it takes time. It is also essential to believe in yourself as much as possible, as people will not believe you until you believe in yourself.”

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VIBE JUST ATTRACTED THE TRIBE: MANASI SCOTT ON HER LATEST SONG ‘KITTHE CHALI’

In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor-singer Manasi Scott spoke about her latest music video ‘Kitthe Chali’ as well as some of her upcoming projects.

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Manasi Scott is a well-known singer and actor. She is one of the most loved voices on fashion show ramps. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, she spoke to us about her recent award-winning performance in the ‘Kitthe Chali’ music video.

Talking about how the origin of the idea of her recent hit song ‘Kitthe Chali’ and the kind of response it’s generating, Manasi said, “Being half Sardarani Punjabi is like 1st nature to me. Every day I used to get up, put on makeup and do a show on Insta live. It was heart-warming for a number of people who connected. At that time, ‘twisted bass’ sent me the basic skeleton of the song. I was sitting, applying lipstick and listening to the track when the idea clicked about ‘Kitthe Chali Kudiye’. It formed the basis of the song. It started there and when lockdown opened, Gaurav came home to hear it and said keep it, this is the way he wanted the song to be. I felt this is amazing. So the idea is our frustration in lockdown.”

Sharing her upcoming projects, she said, “I think besides the birth of this beautiful song, it was like a vocal master class for me. There’s a lot more coming out with 9XM and many others and hopefully an international project as well.” Moreover, she beautifully hummed few lines of ‘Kitthe Chali’ for the audience.

On being asked about her transition from software engineer to a popular singer and actor, Manasi shared, “I have to thank 9XM and SpotlampE. They made me remember all this from the past because it’s been so long in the business that you don’t think about it. I am not only a software engineer graduate but I topped. I have a 70% scholarship to a very elite engineering school in America. My dad has this dream of being a drummer and I was there on every stage singing and winning, though I never learned singing. Born to two super achievers, engineering was the way to go. My father asked me not to waste my life and go into the arts. I think he’s the only father in the country that pusher his daughter from engineering to arts. I owe this transition to my dad, the fashion industry, and people who believed in me.”

On being given the option to choose one between singing and acting, she said, “For me, my first love is musical theatre. It’s about getting a chance to do it right the first time and not getting a chance to do it again with 2nd take. I have done a lot of amateur theatre in the early years. For me it’s about performance—singing, dancing and acting all together. Just to see that joy, connect, and unite with the audience for those few minutes of performance means everything to me.”

Talking about the music video of ‘Kitthe Chali’, Manasi gave full credit to the choreographer-director of the video and her friend for all the looks. She believes, “the good look and idea of the presentation is half the battle won because by that time you have already believed in the song. Music video success was a result of the collective hardworking of a lot of people. I think people just came out of lockdown and the vibe just attracted the tribe.” She wrapped her interview on a very positive note. “I hope the rest of the world moves forward in the same way. I think this video has come to life, whichever way it goes, it’s going to be a hit because of people and their energy, kindness and connectivity.”

For me it’s about performance—singing, dancing and acting all together. Just to see that joy, connect, and unite with the audience for those few minutes of performance means everything to me.

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THE ART OF KEEPING IT SHORT BUT NOT SIMPLE

Richa Gupta

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An anthology of short stories enables a writer to develop multiple germs of thought into distinct stories, each of which has a compactly expressed theme. A short story can be more impactful than a novel since all its concentrated elements—plot, characters, ambience, pacing and resolution—amalgamate to convey a singular idea or emotion such as humour, mystery, moral truth or an emotional conflict while incorporating profundity, innovation and complexity despite the conciseness of form. 

Whereas a novel can dawdle into multiple scenarios and time spans, a short story delves into a single scenario, dilemma or conflict that is resolved or finally brought to a climax within 1000 to 5000 words. Here are some tips to write expressive short stories.

• Describe the details of a central setting so as to make it vivid, relatable and interesting. For example, in my anthology The Jamun Tree and Other Stories, the scene of the story ‘Inheritance’ is clearly set as a lawyer’s chamber where the lawyer conveys the contents of the late matriarch’s will to her family:

The bespectacled senior lawyer, Kishen Khanna, seated on one side of an expansive desk, watched the Dewan family stream into his wood-panelled office with ergonomic office chairs and shelves stacked with law books and case files.

The events of ‘Holiday Luncheon’ take place aboard a cruise liner sailing from Singapore to Port Klang in Malaysia, and the scene is clearly delineated at the outset.

‘What a lovely cruise liner!’ remarked Disha, as they boarded the liner and saw a gigantic artificial tree decorated with brightly coloured tinsel, silver balls, red stockings and other Christmas decorations in the centre of the circular carpeted Reception room with doors leading to different arenas: recreational facilities, cabins, suites, multi-cuisine dining options, a duty-free shopping zone and a walk-around promenade deck.

• Develop an original story in which the plot structure does or does not follow the classic linear sequence of the beginning, the middle and the ending. For example, you can plunge straight into the middle of the story and then rewind into a flashback. The story ‘The Jamun Tree’ begins with the comments of some onlookers about the luxurious Jamun tree in the courtyard of a vintage bungalow and then covers the past 45 years in the lives of the Jamun Tree and the family inhabiting the bungalow. 

• Focus on one or maximum two main characters and add complexity by describing their unexpressed feelings and desires instead of making them simply good or bad characters. Describe their physical and mental attributes, contradictory emotions and past history so that the characters seem realistic and well-rounded. 

Do not reveal everything about the character at once but gradually throughout the story to keep the readers hooked on to the revelations. For example, the story ‘The Discovery’ reveals new facts about the narrator’s psychological state of mind as her thrilling story proceeds until the last crucial exposition that turns her tale on its head; and in the story ‘Crackdown’, the true mental state of the protagonist is revealed at the conclusion, much to the readers’ surprise. 

• Develop the characters and ambience through brief sensory details instead of detailed explanations. For example, in the story ‘Art of Living’, the description of Manya when she meets her friend in the café conveys her anguished frame of mind:

As she gave me a quick hug and sat opposite me, I saw a careworn and grief-stricken lady with wild darting eyes and shabby untended hair and clothes. Most of all, I noticed the dazed and faraway look in her eyes—probably due to medication for depression, which, Rajiv had told me, she had been prescribed.

• Use dialogue to reveal character and propel plot tension. The dialogue must enable the reader to infer the character’s personality and state of mind. Provide enough description of the speaker’s actions, tone and attitude to enable inference but avoid over-detailing. 

In these words of Manya from ‘Art of Living’, one can feel her grief:

‘It was a blue polka-dotted dress with red satin ribbons, so pretty! She looked like a doll in it. But, after the accident, there were red streaks all over her and the dress…so awful…’ Manya burst into tears and took a paper napkin from the holder to dry her tears. ‘Now, she is gone and we are all here …eating … sleeping …working. Only she is gone.’

• Write the short story in First Person or Third Person. In the former, the narrator can be the main character or someone observing him or her. In the latter, there is an omniscient narrator who is aware of all that is happening with the characters.

Ensure clarity of perspective and an undercurrent to the narration so that the reader can see beyond what is stated to interpret the narrator’s follies, illusions and subjectivity. Build up contrasting versions of the truth to intrigue readers as in this first-person narrative from ‘The Discovery’:

‘Deepak alleged that I had shown criminal negligence in abandoning my father in his frailty to the care of my sister-in-law, Seema, a working professional. Of course, I had done nothing of the sort and had been literally driven out of my mind by Sahil and Seema’s persecution, which started as soon as my father fell ill.’ 

• Prune all words extraneous to the central theme. Every sentence must be there for a purpose. This will keep the story moving forward and retain the reader’s interest.  

• Build up to a riveting climax or anti-climax. Try to include a twist at the end of the tale so that the reader stumbles on something unexpected but avoid clichéd endings. Provide a resolution to the conflict so that there is a change in the protagonist’s perception or attitude. The ending must satisfy the reader and not leave them with the feeling that the story ended too soon or left loose threads unresolved.

Perhaps you may love the process of writing short stories so much as to agree with Annie Proulx’s statement, ‘I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.’

Richa Gupta is the author of ‘The Jamun Tree and Other Stories’. 

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Understanding the act of giving and receiving care

Poonam Chawla

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One seldom rises at the hour of prayer, thinking, let me be neglectful to the elderly parent, relative or in-law living under my roof, today. But somewhere between shrugging into a starched shirt and biting into your morning toast, the brain goes into overdrive; it separates into neat little boxes, what must be done now, what must be done next week and what must be delegated.

Most likely, the elderly are tucked away in the last box, to be opened at a later date with reluctant fingers.

THE CAREGIVER

When I grow up I want to fold myself into a comma awaiting forever, the end of my sentence. Says no one ever but, if you are forced into caregiving or even if you make the choice to be a caregiver, there are many days you feel that way, like life in suspension, unsaved by poetic flourishes.

Your duties like the ticking clock are circular, unchanging. Yet, the attendant responsibilities and psychological ramifications of care make you want to curl up in a ball and whimper. You need help:

REMIND YOURSELF

Is this the rest of my life? When the thought makes you want to breathe into a paper bag – remind yourself that it is not. This phase will play itself out. For now, your job is to put one foot in front of another and not let your mind leap into a past romanticised with memory or a future tricky and fog-shaped. Dispense that medicine. Change that diaper. Feed that mouth and wipe those lips. That is what matters now, and it matters immensely. It allows a person to live out this last stage of their life with a few breaths of grace.

SELF-CARE IS NOT BEING SELFISH

The elderly are fragile. They break easily. You cannot handle them with a shaky hand or a disturbed mind. So, don’t minimise your problems and do take care of your health.

Annika, in my book The Slow Disappearing, admits:

“There are times when I have a headache or it burns when I pee or I have a cold I cannot shake, and I’m fully aware how petty that is, for what is a cold when one is losing words or losing one’s foothold on one’s surroundings? And that is when I detest the sound of her phlegmy cough, the overdrawn drama, the canned revelry of game shows on television, and her passive-aggressive silences.”

Seek advice from your doctor if you are unwell, allow your kindly neighbour to pamper you, look into community resources available for the elderly – a day trip to the temple with their peers, arranged by a Senior Citizen Welfare group can be wonderful for their spirits and yours. Take that time to slip away to the mountains, if not physically – by way of a song, a walk in the park, a steamy read.

FORGET SOCIAL MEDIA

Forget social media or at least look at the kaleidoscopic shapes of social media objectively. Facebook is a moment shaken out of time. It’s a touch of instant glamour, like that new shade of burgundy lipstick you bought for special occasions. Don’t let it fill you with envy or resentment.

Life is messy. Other people are not floating in a rosy parallel, above-the-grime world unexposed to disinfectants and deranged rants. Every image you see is someone auditioning for an imagined life.

SEE AND TOUCH

In this day of over-verbalisation, platitudes are worn thin with overuse. We love you, we care about you, we hope you are well… is all very well. But know that if you wash and brush the hair of the ones under your care; if you clip their toe-nails; if you really look into their storied eyes, and see them for who they are – the murtis of hope, compassion, forgiveness, and despair and countless other stories – you will become their Tulsidas and their Tagore. Your touch will heal.

And when you realise that the opaque membrane between youth and ageing is thinning daily, you will know empathy – that care-shaped emoji at the end of the sentence.

GIVE AND TAKE

As a child, you might have read the story of The Giving Tree. How it shelters and nurtures a boy, with every portion of its being – The trunk, the branches, the fruit, the leaves –  à votre service, up until the end, when it shrivels to a stump. The tree gives. The child takes.

I like to akin the elderly to the forest trees: sheltering, nurturing until they shrivel to unrecognisable stumps. Perhaps we can change the ending to that story: The tree gives. The child gives back.

Poonam Chawla is the author of The Slow Disappearing. 

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