Bio: Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. She also has a post-graduate diploma in Instructional Designing, from Symbiosis Institute, Pune. She started her career by writing children’s books, creating e-learning modules and writing lifestyle articles for Rediff.com. Currently she is working as a Content Head at an Insights based PR Company in Mumbai. A foodie, a lifestyle features writer who loves writing restaurant/ food reviews and travelogues and in her spare time, she likes to pursue her hobbies of painting and photography.
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Meet 20-year-old Harshita Sharma, a first-year Bachelors in Fine Arts student from Kanpur University, who stumbled upon her hidden talent of bringing lifeless stones to life quite by chance.
Harshita contacted us through the Shereos App, when we shared our feature on a Pune based entrepreneur, Shweta Menon, the Founder of Truly Tribal. When we received pictures of her artwork, we were blown! Don’t go by our word, you have to see her fascinating artwork on stones and pebbles to believe us.
In spite of having cleared her entrance exam for the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Harshita was unable to pursue her dream owing to financial constraints. The eternal optimist in her continued to teach young school children after college hours to earn some income through home tuitions.
It was around this time Harshita recalls, “One day, my students brought stones in the tuition class to help them do an art project for “Best out of Waste” in school. I made some artwork out of those stones and their teachers absolutely loved their work. This was when I decided to learn more about stone painting through YouTube.”
Harshita does admit, that the initial days was an uphill task. She shares, “The initial stages were more challenging because not everyone understood my work. I would often get comments such as kaun kharidega pather (who will buy a stone!). I did find it very discouraging as such comments would pull me down for not having a regular job. But my inner strength would pull me out of this, and I continued painting. I started visiting local fairs but not a single artwork of mine was sold at that time. People would often tell me as to why I am wasting my time as no local art shops would accept my work.
But this didn’t stop Harshita to continue painting and learning. She would regularly post pictures of her artwork on social media and on the Sheroes platform. Then on 1st January 2019, she made a portrait of Sairee Chahal, the Founder of Sheroes, Harshita recalls, “I got tremendous feedback. Everyone said that this was something unique which they hadn’t seen before.”
Harshita went on to get featured on the Sheroes App and started receiving a few orders as well. Not only that, she has successfully completed the ‘100-day art challenge’ and was crowned a winner on by an art studio called Simsum Arts and she adds, “This is how I became a stone artist and launched Stonemania in December 2019.”
The daily dose of encouragement that she received from the fellow members on the Sheroes App, made Harshita launch her maiden venture, Stonemania. While her mother a home manager pitches in with giving ideas and helping her with her artwork, Harshita’s father a banker is now extremely supportive seeing the potential her work has.
While Harshita does feel that painting on stone may not be as popular as abroad, but she is hopeful to make her mark. You can find nature-inspired themes, landscapes, sculpture and portraits painted by her on stones.
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The market is flooded with home décor items at competitive pricing. When we pick up a product, we look for its finishing and price. We seldom notice that the product that claims to be an ‘Indian handicraft’ is often not made in India, and yet we pick it up.
We at The Lifestyle Portal support handmade, traditional Indian handicrafts and artisans and have been writing about them for the last eight years. In our quest for authentic conventional Indian craftsmanship, sourced directly from the artisans, brought us to Truly Tribal. Truly Tribal is a one-of-its-kind handicraft store in Pune, that is working to give the traditional Indian handicraft it is due in the world of machine-made, mass-produced goods.
The Lifestyle Portal is genuinely awestruck at the hard work and perseverance by Shweta Menon, Founder, and MD of Truly Tribal, who has embarked upon this journey to revive Indian handicraft and to give its due space in India and at a global level.
We got to know more about her work when she attended our second entrepreneurs’ meetup in Pune in November 2019. The Lifestyle Portal is happy to share with you our conversation with this 45-year-old computer engineer turned entrepreneur who has been successfully running Truly Tribal since July 2015.
When did it all begin?
Being a Computer Engineer and having worked in the IT Sector for almost 13 years, Shweta realized it was time to step out of the comfort zone and follow her heart. She shares, “IT is a good sector, but personally after a point, it was not fulfilling for me to continue as monotony started seeping in. I always wanted to do something where I could directly connect with people. Also hailing from a Marwadi business background when I thought of switching the career line, business was an obvious choice!”
How Truly Tribal was born
Shweta has always been an art enthusiast who was fascinated by traditional Indian artwork. Coming from a small tribal town Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, she has been a witness to the work by tribal artists since her childhood, which she felt was highly undervalued.
She adds, “I have witnessed the potential of these artisans and realised how they’re affected by the massive gap between the supply and demand. The idea of getting all kinds of Indian artwork at an affordable rate is where I saw the protentional. I also realised this market is very scattered and in need of a single window. It needed a space where all kinds of Indian artwork can be made available and not filled with ‘ready to use’, ‘off the shelf’ standard designs, but also with possibilities of expanding these art forms in newer and more contemporary designs. It would need evolution to be able to cater to customised design requirements and that’s how “Truly Tribal” was born.
Shweta recalls how it all began around four years back when she wanted to get back to work after her second child. She shares, “I was very clear that I did not want to be part of the IT sector anymore and wanted to start something of my own. I tried my hand on Soft Skills and Process Training but was still not very happy.”
The idea of a business didn’t occur to her before July 2015, when she started to look for an alternative career. Shweta has always been an art lover and loved collecting traditional artwork from different places. It was then that Shweta realised that Indian art is hugely popular in India and abroad, but people are unaware of where to procure genuine products. She has also seen how these artisans get exploited by middlemen, and they hardly get a good price for their artwork.
She further adds, “At the same time, I also realised where talented artisans did not know how to reinvent their art to remain relevant. Art needs to be more in line with the changing time.
Another constraint that Shweta witnessed was there is no place where all kinds of Indian artwork would be available under a single umbrella. Some retail options are there, but they are expensive and have only readymade products. She explains, “If I want specific customisation or a particular concept being created, it is a herculean task to find the right person to do the work. I put my IT background to use and decided to come up with a digital solution to bridge this gap.”
Hailing from a business family and the IT corporate background helped Shweta in her entrepreneurial journey. “I am a self-taught entrepreneur and learned as I progressed. Yes, I did receive a few business tips from my father but I couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support from my husband who helped me to stay afloat and remain in the business, despite the setback. I did face quite a few setbacks and breaks before things started moving the desired direction, which even involved revamping the business model entirely.
Shifting gears from retail to manufacturing
Shweta further explains, “Initially, we started as a retail and an online setup, and landed up spending on wrong marketing strategies. We didn’t understand the buying pattern in this industry well. Indian handicraft products are essentially, a ‘touch and feel’ purchases, and not the impulse buys or a daily needs buy. Hence, we decided to reach out to existing retail home décor and gifting stores.
It became their vision to make art affordable, which will lead to more work for the artisans apart from a considerable penetration in the customer base. That’s how Truly Tribal got into manufacturing and trading of these artefacts.
Shweta started travelling across the country to set up her team of artisans to understand their work which would further in better designing of the products.
She also decided to enter into corporate gifting as that will help Indian handicraft connect to a much larger audience. Corporate gifting exposes a larger audience to these kinds of handicraft products and also helps artisans come up with different types of product ideas.
Setting up an online platform
When Shweta started working on the website for Truly Tribal, the initial idea was to have an online retail portal catering to domestic and international customers.
She recalls, “The first year was full of trials – from understanding the customer base, requirements, products and artisans’ identification, building a production team to identify the sales and marketing channels and logistics channels. Today, we’re on a completely different business model. We are no more have a retail setup. Truly Tribal is now a manufacturer, trader, wholesaler and exporter of Indian handicraft and Indian paintings catering across the country and the globe.”
Initial investments and hard work paying off
“I started with a few lacs rupees for product procurement, website, exhibitions and marketing. Initially, we started as an online retail setup running from home and now, we have moved on to a wholesale setup, having our physical office cum display store along with a small warehouse. We launched Truly Tribal with three artisans, and three art forms and now have over 100 artisans with over 20 traditional art forms. We started with only 25 products, and now the handcrafted traditional products count is limited only by the imagination!” smiles Shweta with pride.
Today, Truly Tribal is supplying to various stores, corporate and social gifting segment, connecting with interior designers to make new custom products and exporting and manufacturing custom products, trying to establish Indian art into the map of world art. They supply to Indian and international brands such as Sandvik Asia, India, Ethnic Mantra, Canada, Arumi Designs, UK, Srishti Gifts LLP, Banglore, Generikart Medicines, Mahrahstra, Tribes Chatri, Pune and Things Etc. Thane to name a few.
Choosing merchandise for Truly Tribal
Shweta admits, “Initially I would choose what kind of product I like. However, over a period of time, I understood that everybody likes different things, and as a business, we should be catering to all kinds of requirements.”
Now armed with research Shweta and her team review the kinds of items are trending and if those items could be created or produced by infusing traditional handicraft. They also keep coming up with different product ideas and take them to their artisans to see if they work.
Gradually with time, Shweta and her team at Truly Tribal have listed out some criteria when designing, creating and introducing a new product and try and do something utilising those criteria like utility, costing, packaging, size and detailing. For example, utility-based décor has the most demand, followed by pure décor products. She found that having a contemporary touch to these artworks also helps in having a higher demand.
What makes Truly Tribal unique is that they’re a one-stop-shop for all kind Indian handicrafts, paintings and other traditional artwork. They don’t just sell off the shelf products; in fact, Truly Tribal designs the customised products based on customers’ requirements and expectations. They also do the fusion of the different kind of art from different states and develop new lifestyle products utilising these artworks.
Awareness about Indian handicraft
“I believe we don’t have enough awareness about the range of Indian handicrafts and other traditional artwork. People use the term ‘tribal art’, ‘folk art’ and ‘traditional art’ interchangeably. Sadly, people have limited knowledge of a few artworks that are more marketed. The history, geography and traditions of the artwork is very little known,” shares Shweta.
Shweta strongly feels that most people don’t understand much and consider these art forms to be cheap work done by the villagers. Very few people appreciate the hard work and effort going behind these artworks and compare the costing, production time and packaging with machine-made and Chinese products, which is impossible to match. However, if compared on the creativity, story, effort behind these products, they will fare far better than Chinese and imported products.
“It is crucial that we put in the effort to make people and the next generation aware of our rich heritage of the art and craft and also support them to keep these alive. It is our responsibility not just to support Indian artisans but also help them reinvent and reive their work through ideation. This will help them to create new mediums and products, which will help them to remain relevant in present times and also create products which are a conversation starter,” adds Shweta.
The response so far…
“People seem to be excited and appreciative of the work we are doing with artisans, art and handicraft. We are getting new insight into the industry as we progress, and we are learning as we are moving along on the upward trajectory. But due to the nature of the industry, it has been slower growth than other industries,” explains Shweta.
Having moved from an organised industry to an unorganised one, from working with a global IT crowd to village artisans, from a purely profit-oriented profession to a social enterprise, Shweta feels a sense of contentment having moved from one end of the spectrum to another.
“The journey has been an enriching experience with lots of learning and unlearning. It has helped my growth as a person and not just from the professional perspective but also at a very personal level as well,” smiles Shweta.
Shweta signs off by saying, “Our vision is to be the name people think, whenever they think about any Indian handicrafts and paintings. We want to introduce new products to suit the need of changing times while keeping the cost and budget in mind. We want to make the handicrafts and paintings easily available at affordable rates so that it can expand to a larger consumer base as well as provide the traditional artisans with enough work so that they don’t leave this line of work.”
To connect with Truly Tribal for orders, click here.
Get listed & collaborate with us:
Write to us at [email protected] if you’d like to get listed, featured & collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.
The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup was a launchpad to many first-timers who were testing the waters of entrepreneurship. Each of the participants got a chance to speak about their work which helped us to understand their visions, hard work and the perseverance that goes into running one’s own enterprise. This is where we got to interact with more than 20 entrepreneurs from various segments and one of them was Ammara, a home-grown business curating natural skincare product across all age groups.
We’re extremely happy to share the entrepreneurial journey of 44-year-old, Pune based Kainaaz Mehta, Founder of Ammara. Find out how Kainaaz, after having spent almost two decades in the service industry decided to start her own venture on skincare.
When did it all begin?
She shares, “After having worked in the services industry for 21 years, I got increasingly obsessed with the idea of creating something I really cared about for the last couple of years. I am a firm believer that business has the ability, even the responsibility, to bring about change. Change that is for the better.”
Kainaaz has always been fascinated by skincare and when she decided to hop onto the entrepreneurial bandwagon, this was what came to her mind instantly. Once she decided on her new career shift, she completed a Diploma in Beauty Care from VLCC and attended several workshops to keep learning and growing in the field.
Kainaaz launched Ammara in January 2018 with a handful, around 8-10 varieties of soaps ranging from Goat Milk, Shea Butter, Charcoal and Green Tea. Today she has more than 25 types of soaps. She also makes customised soaps, soaps for events, occasions, and now even launched her line of scrubs, creams, body lotion, kumkumadi tailam and lip balms as well.
After gearing up with all the new learnings, Kainaaz started from her home kitchen. Eventually with time, as worked picked up, she now has a dedicated studio in her house. Her network, friends, social media and exhibitions have paved her path to moving ahead.
What makes Ammara products unique
“Soaps by Ammara are paraben-free, all-natural made with the goodness of Almond oil, Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter to name a few. At Ammara, I only use natural and chemical-free ingredients. I play with a palette of oils, butters and natural colours. Most of my clients are the ones who are aware of the benefits of natural products and prefer to buy handmade and chemical-free products from Ammara,” adds Kainaaz.
Why should consumers make a shift to natural products?
Kainaaz further explains, “Most people actively try to minimize the number of toxins that enter their bodies. They eat good food, drink purified water, breathe purified air, and some even take added measures to detoxify their bodies. However, what many people don’t realize is that toxins can also be absorbed through their skin as well. Sometimes people don’t think before buying a soap. Given the industrious process used to produce many of the commonly known soaps, it’s not a surprise that most contain questionable chemicals, dyes, and fragrances… questionable substances that many of us would be better off avoiding. If you want to minimize the use of “casual toxins” you and your family are exposed to, consider using natural soap.”
“All the soaps by Ammara are natural, free from parabens and made with the goodness of Almond oil, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and many more. Most conventional soap products contain heavy fragrances, nasty parabens, dyes and other chemicals that don’t belong on our skin. These ingredients can cause endocrine disruption and even be carcinogenic. Also, our skin is our biggest detox organ, so we don’t want to coat or clog it with artificial stuff,” adds Kainaaz.
Journey and response so far
Kainaaz signs off by sharing the journey has been fabulous with lots of new learnings and overcoming various challenges and yet moving in the right direction. She is now looking at establishing a sizeable workshop and creating a space for Ammara as a reputed brand in the market.
To place an order from Ammara, click here.
Get listed & collaborate with us:
Write to us at [email protected] if you’d like to get listed, featured & collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.
Every city has a story to tell, and Kolkata will charm you with a story of her own. On a recent trip to Kolkata, I got an opportunity to explore the city with a fresh new perspective. A one-week trip to Kolkata was seasoned with a myriad of emotions and experiences that may be overwhelming to pen it all down, but I shall try.
It started off with a family reunion after 38 years. What made it special, was that family members from across the globe and the country flew down to be a part of this special event. A retelling of childhood memories was interspersed with warm hugs and tears of joy and melancholy. The last time we met, many of us were children and today when we attended the reunion, we were accompanied by offsprings of our own. Time truly is enigmatic; it heals, it gives you no option but to move ahead and shows how far we’ve come. The catalyst to this reunion was a cousin who was keen on a traditional Bengali wedding in Kolkata. Thank you to the newlyweds who flew down from Canada and the US and brought us all together, once again.
The December trip to Kolkata also included visiting some of the most iconic historical monuments, digging into street food, shopping at New Market and Dakshinapan, visiting the Bawali Rajbari and of course, a wedding to remember! Yes, sometimes, when time is short, you better keep pace, as there’s no time to lose.
If you’re visiting Kolkata for the first time or have visited earlier, sharing with you some ideas for an itinerary to include in your travel plans.
The holiday began with a luncheon at 6 Ballygunge Place, don’t miss their delectable spreads of Gondhoraj Chicken and Maacher Paanturi. We love their food so much that we had our family reunion here.
If you’re traveling with children (great idea), or alone, a trip to the Indian Museum is a must. I was truly impressed with what’s in store for us. It’s a crash course in history, science and culture which will leave you awestruck as to what our country and this world have witnessed so far.
How can we forget a walk into the manicured gardens of Victoria Memorial? The iconic white marble monument stands tall and proud, welcoming us to the city. A must visit with your children. History teaches a lot about what our country has endured and makes us humbler that in spite of all odds, we’re going strong as one of the largest democracies in the world.
Next was a trip to the Jain Temple, nestled cosily between manicured lawns and adorned with shining and colourful mirror work and glass; allow yourself some time walking and just let the beauty and the calm of the temple embrace you.
And if you think it doesn’t get any more romantic, how about a Hoogly River Cruise where you can witness the beauty of the river against the backdrop of the setting sun. As the boat takes you on an unforgettable journey, you are made to witness one of Kolkata’s historic landmarks – the Howrah Bridge that allows the sea of humanity to travel across the city and stay connected. It’s gigantic size and structure is bound to leave you awestruck.
With a halt at Belur Math, take a walk to the temple for a moment of spiritual pause. Do yourself a little favour, gift yourself a few moments to meditate and allow your mind to uncrowd itself.
A trip to Kolkata would be incomplete without a visit to New Market. Whether it’s patali gur which is date palm jaggery only available during winters in Bengal, or shoe shopping at Sree Leathers or cake and puffs at Nahoum’s, New Market is a landmark with a historical identity of its own. Stop by for curio and street shopping to feel the pulse of the city. On this very trip, I came across Mignonette, a high-end boutique just for kids (it is a part of the BK Birla Group Initiative) that’s worth checking out. Caution, you can’t pick up one, the handmade clothes for little boys and girls are way too adorable!
If you’re at Dakshinapan, don’t miss Silence, a self-help store with a unique collection of handmade gifts and curios to take back home. Whenever I visit Kolkata, Silence is always on my list to take back some curios for friends and family.
Finally, the icing on the cake, a grand yet elegant destination wedding at the Rajbari Bawali. About an hour and a half drive from Kolkata (depending on the traffic), we witnessed the beauty, serenity and charm of this heritage resort set against the backdrop of the Bengal countryside. Beautiful spacious rooms and the ambience, befitting the zamindars of Bengal; reminded me of my ancestral home back in Bandel. Take a digital detox and sink into a leisurely pace with a book and treat yourself to a snippet of luxury.
From heritage tours to the Hoogly river cruise, a destination wedding and a family reunion, I signed off 2019 on a happy mellow note. Until we meet again, Kolkata, may you keep charming and welcoming people with your beauty.
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What if you had a chance encounter with an Indian monk that would change your perception about life and transform you into a social entrepreneur?
This is what exactly happened way back in 1984, when Dr. Shib Shankar Dasgupta, Executive Director, Shreeja India met a monk inside a tea stall in Kolkata.
During the conversation, the monk shared with him some pearls of wisdom, which he believed could bring about a constructive change in society:
Make sure that nobody dies of hunger
Make sure that nobody dies without proper medical care
Make sure that no child grows up without education
…and this is how the ideology of Shreeja India was conceptualized.
The Lifestyle Portal in conversation with Founders, Dr. Shib Shankar Dasgupta, Executive Director and Country Head, Hari Dasgupta,
Shreeja India. We’re so glad and honored to share their journey of transforming lives of tribal girls in Bengal for a better tomorrow.
Shib Shankar Dasgupta has a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, USA. He is a New York-based social entrepreneur specializing in alleviating poverty through technology. He has worked as a Consultant with various international NGOs, including ‘Save the Children, USA’. As the Founder and Executive Director of Shreeja India, he is currently engaged in empowering young tribal girls through sports-based education in India.
Hari Dasgupta is a Chartered Accountant and retired from Procter and Gamble as the Head of Accounts after a stint of 25 years with the company. Besides drawing up the India Accounts, he was associated with the various business teams by way of analysis and controls. Systems Implementations and MIS were the other core areas of his expertise.
When did it all begin?
Dr. Dasgupta, motivated by the words of the monk, from then on, tried various social projects to fulfill those words which remained with him since 1984. Finally, Shreeja India was registered on February 3, 2017, based on these three ideas, as shared by the monk. Shreeja India aspires to empower every woman, make her self-reliant through education, sports, and life skills. The organization believes that uplifting and educating women is the only and best way to elevate an entire community.
We had a chance to meet Hari Dasgupta at The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup in Pune that brought to light 20 budding entrepreneurs from varied fields. This is where we learned about Shreeja India, a unique not-for-profit organization that is working to empower and educate the tribal girls of West Bengal through football. Yes, football. Football is not just about FIFA and other Champions League; it is also a powerful tool in bringing about social reforms in a country by empowering our women. And The Lifestyle Portal is here to tell you all about it.
Initial investments made
“Initially we, the two brothers put in Rs. 2 lacs. In the first year (2017-18), we got Rs. 6.50 lacs as donations from friends and acquaintances. In the second year (2018-19), our collections were 7.36 lacs from friends and 7 lacs from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes Development & Finance Corporation, Govt. of West Bengal,” shares Hari Dasgupta.
Dr. Shib Dasgupta shares, “Our main challenge in this initiative is to maintain the regular attendance of the girls in our academic and sports classes. All the beneficiary girls are from first-generation learning families. They are slow to realize the value of education in their lives. As a result, we visit their homes and talk to their parents regularly. Our teachers/mentors have to spend a lot of time and energy convincing the parents to allow the girls to attend our classes regularly. Roughly, we have observed that 20% of girls have over 80% attendance; 50% of girls have 60% to 79% attendance and 30% of girls have less than 60% attendance.”
What makes Shreeja India unique?
Shreeja India is aspiring to uplift young girls and women belonging to marginalized and challenged populations and empower them by using football as a tool for overall development.
“The out-of-the-box endeavor undertaken is relatively new in India. The current project by Shreeja India in Birbhum is an innovative and integrated model that conducts special football coaching, out-of-school educational classes, mental health workshops and related activities to foster the overall development of the young beneficiaries of age group (8 -18 years). The endeavor strives to stop school dropout, mainstream first-generation learning girls, end early marriage, prevent human trafficking and impede violence against women,” adds Hari Dasgupta.
Football used as a tool for Social Change
Football is social. Shreeja India’s Football for Development program transcends the field and influences the girls to perform and live better. This approach particularly sets apart Shreeja India from other organizations working in the same thematic areas.
Here are five instances where Shreeja India football coaching helps in enhancing their quality of lives:
- Confidence Building: Tribal girls lack confidence in life. Through their Football for Development program, Shreeja India aspires to make the girls confident in life. Intense practice on the field makes distinct contributions in building their confidence in life as they mature.
- Controlling the Territory: During their Football strategy class, the girls are taught to control individual territories to stop the opponent to pass through. Winning on the field is often translated to the real-life overcoming of daily struggles.
- Awareness of Surroundings: In their skills development class, the girls tend to practice with their heads down. We teach them to continually look up and see the changing positions of their teammates. The idea is to make their passes accurate. This awareness of continually renewed positions of accomplices helps them to judge their own positions in adverse situations envisaged in real life.
- Cooperative living: Football is a team game. Shreeja India encourages constant sharing of glory and fame with teammates that help their girls to adopt a life based on “Sharing and Caring” with friends in real life.
- Off-the-Ball Strategy: In a 90-minute Football match, any girl touches the ball for a few minutes only. The rest of the time, she runs around to find unguarded positions on the field. This ‘Off-The-Ball’ tactic helps them to look for opportune moments to achieve goals in life collectively.
Another factor that sets Shreeja India apart is its simultaneous focus on Research and Development. A separate research cell of the organization is constantly reviewing, mapping and documenting the progress of the program to assure not only its proper implementation but also its further development. The cell identifies social needs, designs initiatives and continuously monitors their impacts.
How football empowers girls
The team of Shreeja India explains, “Football is one of the most popular games in the world. The sheer simplicity of football is what makes it so beautiful and popular. It is very easy to involve someone to play or watch football, hence engaging community becomes easier. All you need is a ball, little space, and something to demarcate the goals and bounds.”
Moreover, it suits the affordability of the target group and the rules are simple. Children anywhere in the world can handle this and hence poverty is no obstacle.
Football, as a sport, also promotes fitness, teamwork and strategizing. It teaches goal setting, perseverance, discipline, time management, handling of success and failure and life skills. Hence, football was a natural choice as a sport to undertake the given endeavor.
“Also, the tribal community we are working with is largely an illiterate populace with the young girls all being first-generation learners (FGLs). They often lag in schools because their parents can hardly help them academically. Parents of FGLs work hard to keep their children in schools, even at the cost of additional debts and hardships. They often find the school environment completely unfriendly to them and this creates a big hurdle for them to build the right network with teachers and other parents. Ultimately, a vacuum is created around the FGLs, which disturbs the smooth functioning of their growth and development and increases the incidence of school dropouts among them. In the given situation and among the populace as mentioned above, it is the girls who suffer more due to the societal constraints putting limitations on them and owing to their vulnerable conditions. While they still do not understand the importance of education, the community is quite inclined towards sport (Football) in general,” Dr. Shib Dasgupta.
Keeping the points in mind, Shreeja India realized that the best way to foster overall development and empower girls belonging to marginalized or special populations would be through Football and this would also help to engage their parents into their developmental process.
The integrated model ‘Beyond Football’ is, however, much more than football training. The program includes specialized intense football coaching, out-of-school educational classes (including mainstream school curriculum, general knowledge, social awareness classes, computers for the seniors and life skill classes), and mental health workshops in an entwined manner.
The progress map through Football
Hari Dasgupta further adds, “We have mapped the progress of the girls who are enrolled under the ‘Beyond Football’ Program over six months since their inception into this endeavor. The report is shared below:
An interesting observation has shown that the girls who are doing well on the field are the same ones who are excelling academically as well. There has been a noticeable improvement in their self- esteem, confidence, fitness, communications and motivation to reach short term goals by setting them on their own.
Projects running at Shreeja India
Shreeja India’s journey commenced with a group of tribal girls in the villages under Rajnagar Block in Birbhum. The tribal community is deprived of access to nutrition, education, health and skills development opportunities. Shreeja India introduced its research-based football for development program in this locality. Being ‘First Generation Learners’ (FGLs) these girls often lag in schools because their parents cannot help them academically and often find the school environment unfriendly. This adversely affects their growth. Shreeja India imparts football coaching as well as out-of-school education to ascertain their holistic physical and mental development. Further, this endeavor helps to build social capital and equip the girls to fight social evils, including early marriages, trafficking and violence much prevalent in the community.
There is a significant gap in the healthy and nutritious food intake of the tribal community residing in the remote villages of Birbhum. Their diet generally consists of edible leaves and rice or rice starch as they cannot afford nutritious fruits and vegetables from the market. To counter this problem, Shreeja India has started facilitating nutrition gardening in each of the households, utilizing their home backyard. The initiative is showing encouraging results. Few vegetables grown include Pumpkin, Tomato, Spinach, Bottle Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Lady Finger, Malabar Spinach, Bush Beans, and eggplant.
“‘DAMINI’ has been a partnership between Shreeja India & Kolkata Police to initiate ‘Shreeja Football Plus’ program to train young girls from NABADISHA project in Kolkata. In addition to football training sessions, Shreeja India’s FIFA approved coaches and mentors managed regular motivational talks, psychological training and after-practice refreshments. After a significant journey together when the initiative gained momentum and stability, Shreeja India handed over the program to Kolkata Police. Damini helped empower more than 150 street girls in Kolkata,” add team Shreeja India.
Research and Development Cell
The organization has a separate research cell that conducts various research studies on educating first-generation learning girls at the base of the pyramid. The investigations are currently focusing on advancing their cognitive performance, improve their physical, mental and personality development.
Future plans with Shreeja India
- Working with the tribal population in all districts of West Bengal and across India, replicating the ‘Beyond Football’ program
- Working with special groups of young women (deaf and mute, socio-economically deprived) and replicating the ‘Beyond Football’ program
- A residential academy for Shreeja girls in each intervening remote location with special science laboratories, advanced digital education system and vocational Training cum production centers
- Health Clinics in intervening remote locations deprived of health care
- Special Programs on nutrition gardening with beneficiary population
- Safe drinking water facilities for underprivileged communities residing in water-scarce areas
- Alternative climate-smart agriculture program for the deprived rural communities
- Advancing entrepreneurship of the women from remote rural areas
- Planning and execution of new endeavors based on the studies and social needs identified by Shreeja India’s research and development cell
Volunteering for Shreeja India
Dr. Shib Dasgupta signs off by saying, “Shreeja India prefers to have active participation from various people from different walks of life. For example, many teachers have volunteered to organize special classes for the girls in Birbhum; former footballers have agreed to visit our football coaching. We are developing a new process through exchange programs between city-based and rural-based schools as well.”
I am sure, after reading the Shreeja India story, we’re going to be motivated to do our bit in terms of volunteering and contributions. And who knows, soon there could be a film made on the work being done by the Shreeja India team, as this is a unique story that needs to be shared with the world.
Signing off with the words of Dr. Shib Dasgupta – Executive Director, Shreeja India – “Life is like a football match; you don’t get to dribble past a defender and score a goal every few minutes. At Shreeja India, we teach our girls the physical and emotional resiliency to last a 90-minute game and to apply that same mentality to every challenge they face in real life.”
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The Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup in Pune proved to be an eye-opener. This time, I got to meet some fantastic entrepreneurs who are venturing out for the first time in fields that were either as hobbies or completely unknown to them.
During the meetup, I met Reema, a Gardener from Pune. Yes, a gardener. I was so fascinated when I heard her talk about gardening as a profession and I thought it was so ‘refreshingly brave’ in this digital age. I am personally very fond of gardening and have been looking to brush up my gardening skills and the universe brought me to Reema’s Garden.
A couple of weeks after our entrepreneurs’ meetup, I attended her Gardening Workshop along with my 7-year-old daughter and I found it to be one of the most fascinating experiences.
It was as if my brain received a fresh boost of oxygen, because in this digital age, here is one woman who is teaching you how to plant a sapling and nurture it. The learnings are profound and so deep-rooted that you realise that it is connected to you as well.
The Lifestyle Portal is extremely proud to introduce 30-year-old Pune-based Gardener, Reema Gopalan, the Founder of Reema’s Garden. We’re elated to be the first ones to share her entrepreneurial journey on our platform.
How did it all begin?
Reema had started gardening in September 2015 and by August 2016 she was so much in love with it that she wanted to share it with the world. “I did what anybody else would do; I started blogging about it! For more than a year I was just happy blogging. Back then I was working with an MNC and blogging, and gardening were just “hobbies and passion”. Then in November 2017 I conducted my first workshop, in Mulund, Mumbai and there was no looking back,” smiles Reema.
“Initially I was conducting workshops only in Mumbai because I had a very good network there. Once I got married I relocated to Pune and then it came to a point that I could no longer do the Mumbai-Pune travelling. I also realised that not having my own space was one of the biggest hurdles because I was not able to conduct the workshops as frequently as I would like to because I was relying on other venues. Finally, in October 2019 I got my own studio in Dhayari, Pune and things started taking shape,” adds Reema.
Was gardening a long-harboured dream?
“Oh No! Not at all,” says Reema. “Initially it was just a hobby. When I started blogging about it, I got a very good response which kept me going. I tried new things, I grew all sorts of vegetables, made tons of mistakes, experimented a lot, sought solutions to all major and minor gardening and gardening related problems and it just kept going on,” she adds.
Reema’s initial investments were negligible. As she explained, she incurred an expense only from workshop to workshop for inventory and venue. Hence, there was no investment as such. However, she adds, “But over the years, I realised the importance of having a formal business set up and I have now invested in the setting up a business place.”
Reema explains that one of the BIGGEST challenges of gardening (especially Kitchen Gardening) is that, you can never predict the results. You can do everything right and yet not have the desired result and you have to be absolutely fine with it. There are so many variables involved like plant nutrition, season, pest, pollination, and many more.
The second biggest challenge is assessing and reviewing the result. When you don’t get the desired result, how do assess what went wrong? Was it the lack of nutrition or inadequate pollination?
Was it soil texture or the grow bag? Of course, there are some definite parameters by which you can tell what went wrong but that’s very limited. Trial and error are the only way.
Hence, the challenge is to make people enjoy the process more than the result!
Gardening Workshops offered at Reema’s Garden
Currently, Reema conducts three primary workshops:
- Beginners – Here you learn the basics of gardening like getting your soil right, how to pot your plant, dealing with pests and more.
- Advanced – In the advanced workshop, you learn how to grow your own herbs, leafy vegetables and all-season vegetables.
- Expert – This workshop teaches you about climbers, creepers, building trellis, pollination, and underground vegetables.
- Kids – Reema is coming up with a Kids’ Workshop too.
- Customised – Other than the above, Reema can also customise and curate workshops and Seminars for corporates as well.
How are these workshops designed
For Reema, these workshops have a dynamic and versatile design. “I keep redoing the curriculum, the method of presentation based on the feedback. For instance, I have so far tried a purely theoretical class, to a demonstration-based workshop to full-fledged theory and hands-on practical workshops. Feedback is the main source of knowing whether or not people like it,” she mentions.
Reema conducted her first workshop on 19th November 2017 in Mumbai. Reema shares, since she did not have her own studio, she was hugely relying on other locations to conduct my workshops and hence was not very consistent with her workshops.
She further adds, “Then around February 2018, I had pivoted to create my own NGO for an agricultural project, which didn’t take off because of lack of funds and other resources. I spent more than a year pursuing the agro-project before finally putting it to a halt. Then finally I mustered all the courage I could, to start afresh. I got a space in Dhayari, Pune in October 2019 and started conducting gardening workshops!”
Response from clients attending the gardening workshops
Reema’s Beginner’s workshop became a huge hit and she’s hopeful that once she launches the kid’s workshop it will also become popular.
So far, her major clients have been gardening enthusiasts who have tried gardening but couldn’t do it very successfully and need some guidance on how to go about it. Clients connect with her through social media mainly Facebook and Instagram.
What makes Reema’s Garden so unique
According to Reema, there are three aspects that make Reema’s Garden unique:
- I am always available for my participants. I am still in touch with the participants from my 2017 workshop. Even when I had pivoted to work on my Agro-Project, I was always available for them. I am just a call away.
- I now have a dedicated studio, where workshops keep happening on a regular basis.
- I believe in empowering. So tomorrow if anyone approaches me saying, Reema I want to start conducting Gardening Workshops, I’ll help them with all the resources I can and also help them in setting up their business. I believe in collaboration and not in competition.
Awareness about gardening
Reema and I further discussed whether there is a healthy awareness about gardening, and she shares, “No, not at all. In fact, gardening even today is construed just as another hobby. I believe, gardening has a solution for all major urban problems – may it be stress, pollution, urban waste management, sensitizing children towards nature and sustainability. Gardening has the power to transform people, communities and societies.”
She further explains, “Take the example of Mumbai, due to awareness about waste management, many people/housing societies are taking the efforts to convert their waste into compost, which is commendable. But due to lack of awareness about gardening, they are struggling as to what to do with the compost. Gardening is the only way to put compost to good use!”
Reema also adds, “For instance in Delhi, look at the pollution levels! Now just imagine, each family deciding to have their own garden with just three plants. It looks so small, isn’t it? But collectively Delhi will have millions of plants. Don’t you think that will help? The good thing about gardening is we all can do our bit. Collectively it looks great, but even on a minuscule/individual level it’s equally good.”
Why should we all learn gardening?
Reema shares, “Gardening helps us become better individuals. We develop an objective view that we never had before. It’s such a beautiful process, happening on a subconscious level. To add to it, we become aware of our surroundings, environment and farming. Sustainability, minimalism and intentional living that is now introduced as a “lifestyle concepts” become your lifestyle naturally and effortlessly.”
Should gardening be a part of the school curriculum?
As a mother, I firmly believe that education is not limited to a classroom. When my daughter plays in the mud in the park, along with her friends, there is no bigger learning than that. They are using all their five senses to understand the soil, the mud and all its parts, without the pressure of exams or marks. I think that is such a fabulous way to learn and I wish schools and colleges would adopt gardening and agriculture as the future desperately depends on going green.
When sharing my sentiments with Reema, she agreed too. “Yes indeed. Firstly, introducing gardening in schools will sensitize our children towards nature. Rather than just theoretical knowledge, having a practical insight always helps. Secondly, it’s our duty to introduce them to this new hobby, just like art and craft. Whether they pursue it or not, is their choice. Making them aware of it, is our duty.” And we second that, Reema!
Future plans with Reema’s Garden
Reema is keen to open more Gardening Hubs through a franchise model. She also wants to start a ‘train the trainer’ course in gardening as well. On a personal level, she is currently writing a book on Gardening and also soon going to launch a digital course on gardening.
The response so far…
It’s been just over two months and Reema is elated with the response she’s been getting. “Even people who have just read about my workshops on social media have called me up, enquired about it and said that I am doing a great job. As an entrepreneur, every day I learn something new. I also learnt a lot of things in the transition from being a homepreneur to an entrepreneur. I entered an altogether new market i.e. Pune, where nobody knew me, and I am setting up everything from scratch. I also learnt that whatever you do, you will fall short, but it’s your duty to keep pushing your limits. It’s been very challenging and satisfying at the same time,” adds Reema with a twinkle in her eyes.
To book a workshop at Reema’s Garden, click here.
~”If you want to be happy for a lifetime be a gardener.” Unknown ~
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I won’t lie, but it does feel good to be appreciated for a work well done. After I wrapped up the event and went back home, over the next few days, these were the messages that poured in.
Gratitude is a powerful tool, use it at work, at home and with yourself and watch the magic unfold. Here’s the gratitude I received from everyone who attended the meetup on 23rd November 2019.
Kainaaz Mehta, Founder, Ammara
It was a pleasure attending the 2nd Entrepreneur’s Meetup in Pune on 23rd November. The speakers were a pleasure to hear and gave useful insights which I felt were beneficial as I am quite a novice in my venture still… yes it’s drilled into my head – LEARN FROM OTHERS MISTAKES. We don’t have so much time to make all of them on our own. The event was very well organised. Thank you Tanya for the experience. Read more about Kainaaz.
Adv. Nishant K. Makasare
I understand how challenging putting up an event of this caliber could be. I appreciate the efforts that you & your team have put to make this event a success. I have attended the first module last year and found a visible transformation. This one was one of its kind. The participants were amazing and so was the management of this event. Since some of the participants wanted notes, I have posted the link for the same on the TLP group. I extend a heartfelt congratulations to you & your team for the same. And wish you luck for your future endeavours. Link to Nishant’s post: 11 Typical Mistakes Start Ups Should Avoid. Read more about Nishant.
Dushyant Bhatia, Founder, Eating Cultures
I attended the Lifestyle Portal’s 2nd Entrepreneurs’ Meetup on Saturday. Had gone there with no expectations but to my pleasant surprise, I saw a lot of serious entrepreneurs doing excellent work in their fields. The aura of confidence had filled the room. Open experience sharing and ideas across the board. Will surely recommend lifestyle portal for the networking opportunities provided. Thanks to Tanya and team for such lovely work. Read more about Dushyant.
Sonali Brahma, Independent Brand Strategist
The TLP Meet was a professionally organized event. The team also hosted it and it was a great experience to be the Keynote Speaker there. While the audience went away with key learnings, I went back with a great entrepreneurs network and some solid insights, myself. Thank you for having me as the Keynote Speaker at the TLP Pune Meet 2019. It was a great session I had and going by the audience response, they had quite a few takeaways. So did I, from the diverse talks we had that day. You and your team did a wonderful job of organizing and conducting the Meet. The pleasure was all mine. Thank you TLP Team and Tanya Munshi for the Meet. Read more about Sonali.
Chanda Rajat Sahu, Principal.& Founder, Wiz Kids International
What a phenomenal event conducted by Tanya! Never ever have I been to a meet up which has been so insightful and engaging! Though I met everyone for the first time… I felt a sense of belonging! It was truly amazing! Thank You, Tanya, once again for this wonderful event! The Lifestyle Portal provided a wonderful platform for seasoned and new entrepreneurs to exchange experiences, feelings of being successful or failures and above all wisdom gained in the journey. Thanks a lot, Tanya Munshi and The Lifestyle Portal for the amazing session in Pune. Wishing you the best of luck in all future sessions. 👍👍😊 Read more about Chanda.
Hari S. Dasgupta, Country Head, Shreeja India
I am glad I made a special effort to attend the day-long session fully. All the presentations were serious, genuine and very down to earth. I am sure all the participants gained from the others’ real-life experiences -successes and failures taken together. At the end of the day, I made about 15 new friends. Shreeja India became known to 15 new entrepreneurs which are a big plus for all of us in Shreeja. I felt that all the participants at the meet were impressed by the Shreeja India story I unfolded. We can look forward to some collaborative interactions be it mushroom cultivation, tribal handicrafts or any other form of skill-building activities. A meaningful relationship has been made with Tanya Munshi’s – The Lifestyle Portal – eat. travel. laugh. share. live. Now it is: eat, travel, laugh, share, live WITH OTHERS LESS FORTUNATE THAN US. Let us sustain it. Read more about Hari Dasgupta.
Reema Gopalan, Founder Reema’s Garden
It was an amazing experience to be a part of the TLP Meetup in Pune. I was a part of some great conversations and met some wonderful people. Tanya is a lovely host and I look forward to being a part of more such meet-ups in the future. Thank you, Tanya and The Lifestyle Portal. Read more about Reema.
Iskshita Tewari, Co-Founder Nutriplate India
It was an amazing experience to be a part of the TLP Meetup in Pune. I was a part of some great conversations and met some wonderful people. Tanya is a lovely host and I look forward to being a part of more such meet-ups in the future. Thank you, Tanya and The Lifestyle Portal. Read more about Nutriplate India.
Shalini Singh, Founder, Galvanise PR and andwemet.com
I would highly recommend The Lifestyle Portal’s members to attend its annual meetup. I am glad I did and hope to attend it year on year. Besides meeting other entrepreneurs and specialists in their field, I enjoyed sitting through all the presentations taking away some learnings from each. Looking forward to attending the 2020 meetup. Read more about Shalini.
Shweta Menon, Founder, Truly Tribal
Attended TLP Pune Meet. Very productive session and had very real networking in the session. Having a small group of participants really helps in building the connect. It was orgniazed well, with lots of followup/ promotions and things like that. My next on agenda is to have the profiling done 🙂 Read more about Shweta.
Jasmine Patel, Founder, Crimson Bluez
Fortunate to attend the 2nd Entrepreneurs Meet up -Pune Edition. It was beautifully organized by Tanya Munshi. We met excellent speakers who took us through their journeys. Explaining the importance of legalities, process, media importance and other strategies to follow for this second innings. All in all a fantabulous Entrepreneur meet. Read more about Jasmine Patel.
Sujata Rane, Founder, Sujata Creations
Thank you Taniya Munshi and lifestyle portal to give such a good opportunity and platform to me and my venture Sujata Creations. This 2nd enterpreneur meet up teach a lot about do’s and don’t about business. Happy to meet all of you. looking forward to the next meet up. Read more about Sujata.
Naazima Shaikh Bahule, Founder, Naaz Caterers
Tanya, Thank you very much for letting me be a part of the entrepreneurs’ meet. The Lifestyle Portal recognised me as an Entrepreneur. A speaker did say about a few things that an Entrepreneur “has to do to” to and to my relief I’m practicing them in my business since day one, so I felt very positive about myself. I also learned a few things that were new to me from other participants as the nature of their business was different. The best thing that appealed to me was said by Nishant sir that “ you have to learn from other mistakes don’t repeat the same mistake”. I also learned the importance of future financial planning as well. Read more about Naazima.
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From an empty banquet hall, to house full; from solemn faces of first-timers attending our meet (not knowing what to expect) to transformed happy confident smiles, The Lifestyle Portal’s Second Entrepreneurs’ Meetup – Pune Edition was a success.
I am so thrilled that The Lifestyle Portal has yet again successfully empowered a new bunch of entrepreneurs who are testing the entrepreneurial waters for the first time in their lives.
I am so grateful to those who believed in my efforts and made it a point to be there in person for our second meetup in Pune. Entrepreneurs such as Shalini Singh, Founder of Galvanise PR and andwemet.com and Ikshita Tewari, Co-Founder, Nutriplate India, came down from Bangalore. It truly meant a lot to me.
I am also grateful to those who didn’t believe in my efforts, who refused to respond and reply to my messages and emails – it just made my resolve stronger. I am sorry if this intimidates those, who refused to reply to my emails or take my calls after saying “I will let you know”, as that added to my checklist of ‘Not to Do (Unprofessional) Things List’.
It is then the words of Michaela DePrince, the renowned Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer’s words echoed in my mind – “I just love proving people wrong” and here I am, standing strong with entrepreneurs who attended my second meetup and making it a success.
This year the learning has been phenomenal. I met a Pune-based gardener, Reema Gopalan, who runs gardening workshops– I think in the day and age of AI, robotics and Machine Learning, coding to number of followers on social media, learning gardening is so refreshingly brave!
I learnt the varieties of mushrooms and how they’re good for our health and the planet from Trupti Dhakate, Founder of Quality Mushrooms, Pune. And there was Shyam Bari, a Mushroom Farmer, who took a train one day prior all the way from Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh to talk about his struggles in the village and how mushroom farming has given him a second lease of life.
Sujata Rane, from Mumbai showed the varieties of cloth bags and utility items she stitches by hand with upcycled, waste cloth materials and has provided employment to lower-income group women, who are now earning a living through her home venture. Most impressive was Hari Dasgupta, Country Head, Shreeja India, who along with his brother are running a non-profit organisation empowering over 100 tribal girls from interior West Bengal through football and education.
In the day and age of competition and business, it was so refreshing to hear Chanda Rajat Sahu, Principal and Founder of Wiz Kids International, Mumbai about her entrepreneurial journey. We were awestruck by her vision of giving a new humane dimension to daycare facilities and preschools in India because she knows that a mother needs to get back to work. Her dedication into the field beyond her call of duty shows that people actually care.
It is when you meet people from all walks of life, do you realise that all hope is not lost.
Ikshita Tewari, Co-Founder, Nutriplate India, talked about taste buds and addiction how we can rewire our brains to make healthier food choices. She also talked about how her mum, Founder of Nutriplate India, Shaloo Tewari, makes healthy snacks in her home kitchen back in Lucknow. It showed how entrepreneurs want to take something beneficial to the market and make sure people get good products and services for a reasonable price.
There were entrepreneurship lessons learned from Shalini Singh, Founder, Galvanise PR and andwemet.com, homepreneur do’s and don’ts from Sonali Karande Brahma, an independent brand strategist and learning from mistake sessions from Adv Nishant Kiran Makasare, a transformational coach and legal advisor.
Sonali stressed the importance of homepreneurs drawing a ‘lakshman rekha’ or boundaries between their personal and professional lives. That even as a homepreneur, one should not think of themselves as ‘small’ and how they should be professional in their dealings with people.
Shalini talked about the importance of doing your homework right – licenses and registrations, having a capital to tide through the difficult periods of entrepreneurship because the journey can get difficult. Nishant talked about learning from mistakes made by others. He is by far one of the most impactful and powerful orators/ speakers I have come across. It’s a pity for those who missed hearing Nishant.
Dushyant Bhatia, Founder of Eating Cultures talked about his love for food and why he takes people on food walks in Pune. I think this is a brilliant way to know one’s city through its iconic food hubs.
I’ll be eternally grateful to Shalini, Chanda and Nishant, for cheering me on and making it a point to be there for me. You truly have a heart of gold.
Last but not the least, the event wouldn’t have been successful without the support of our gifting partners – Dr. Vaidya’s, Crimson Bluez, Truly Tribal and The Sweet Store.
I fell in love with those gorgeous fine crafted marble dhibbis from Crimson Bluez. Founded by Jasmine Patel, Crimson Bluez has quite an exquisite collection of home décor items, upholstery, high-end gifting, and handmade soaps and bath salts.
And what can I say, I am a big fan of handicraft and handmade products, and Truly Tribal stole my heart yet again with their goodies for speakers and participants. And an earnest thanks to Arjun Vaidya, CEO of Arjun Vaidya, for believing in our meetup and shipping across the hampers for all participants, even though he couldn’t make it in person.
I would also like to thank Kainaaz Mehta, Founder of Ammara, Jasmine Patel, Founder of Crimson Bluez, Dushyant Bhatia, Founder of Eating Cultures, Shweta Menon, Founder of Truly Tribal, Trupti Dhakate, Founder of Quality Mushrooms and Dr Vaidya’s to give away a little gift to each of our participants. It felt like early Christmas for all of us!
It all starts with a small baby step, we were all once babies, as humans, and as entrepreneurs. Let us create a healthy ecosystem that we all survive and take our country ahead on the map of progress.
Learning never stops, and I am always eager to learn more from people. Hope to see you and many more new faces in our next meetup, in a new town or city. Make sure, you book your tickets in advance!
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We have often heard ourselves saying that all we want to do is have a simple plate of daal-chawal, just the way your mum would make it? Usually, after a long flight or a train journey, the only thing that lifts you up is that perfect bowl of thukpa, a khichdi or that special tea just the way it’s made at home? What do you think we call such a thing? It’s called comfort food but why do we associate so much importance around comfort food?
If you think it is just one of those things that we think of when we’re hungry, think again; there’s much more to it that you can image.
As Prachi S. Vaish, a psychologist puts it, “The human brain automatically attaches memory cues to everything we do. That’s how we grow and learn. In the same way if a pleasant and comforting memory is created while eating a particular food (a bowl of soup for the first time in the rainy season, or a close friend bringing chicken noodle soup to tend to you while you’re sick), it gets conditioned in our minds as a ‘comfort food’ and we want to go back to it when we’re stressed the next time to invoke the same pleasurable feelings.”
But wait, there’s more science attached to comfort food. Anything that gives us pleasurable feelings triggers a reward centre in our brain called the nucleus accumbens explains Prachi. It’s the same centre that’s responsible for getting us hooked on addictive substances. It’s a part of our primitive brain that works on dopamine and endorphins that make us feel good and that’s why certain foods that we call comfort foods create such positive feelings in our minds.
Making memories is the job of another primitive brain called Hippocampus. The stronger is an emotion attached to any event, the deeper is the memory created. Food is one of the primal needs of humans and good food always elicits great emotions which then get imprinted into strong memories, so the next time you’re craving for ‘ma ke haath ka daal-chawal’, you know it’s all a wonderful blend of science and emotions.
For celebrity chef and food author Chef (Mrs.) Reetu Uday Kugaji, “According to me comfort food is the one which relieves the person from negative psychological stress. This also helps the person in coping with our emotional stress. In India, comfort food varies between states and sometimes even cities. The belief in India is to eat comfort food as fresh as possible.”
If you ask her about her favourite comfort food, it’s got to be “Pakorewali Punjabi Kadhi” prepared by her mother. “Because”, she says, “It’s prepared with a secret ingredient called mother’s love. So pure and emotions attached to it, prepared with a positive mind.”
She further adds, “The reason being that “Ma ke haath ka khana” has magic and has qualities that are God gifted. Anyone would feel that even the best cuisines in the world simply cannot beat the cooking and preparation of food by their mother. Prepared with 100% of pure love for her family makes it even more special.”
It doesn’t matter how young or old you are and which part of the globe you are, whenever you dig into a bowl of your comfort food, say a little thank you to your mum or that special person who made you feel good, warm and better in minutes thousands of miles away.
The next time you sit down with your favourite comfort food, say a little thank you to that special person who made the dish out of sheer love for you that even though you’re sitting miles away, that very plate of food has the power to make you feel good in no time.
What’s your comfort food?
Share your fond food memories and recipes and we’ll publish it. Email us ([email protected]) your recipes or a short write-up on your favourite food memory and attach a couple of nice photographs to compliment it.
What are the five things you’ve always wanted to know about love – whether it’s true, long-lasting or short-lived? The innumerable poems, films and songs are yet to unravel the mysteries of love. When two people meet, fall in love, one proposes marriage and they live happily ever after. Does it really happen in real life? We ask a few people on what ‘true love’ means to them and whether it is a reality or just a chimera of our thoughts.
Here are five questions we’ve asked various people about love and here are the responses we’ve received.
1. Does true love really exist?
Baisakhi Roy Tandon, a Toronto based writer says, “I believe in love. I believe that people are capable of feeling intense emotions for each other. Some take it further and invest time and effort in it which translates into a solid relationship. Because I have experienced the love of that kind from my mate, my husband (Umang), I do believe love exists.” To second that, Neha Rajadhyaksha, a Mumbai based food blogger adds, “I completely believe in true love and in the power of love. Yes, it certainly does exist. There are many forms of true love, we just haven’t learnt how to differentiate it well.”
2. Is there a litmus test for love?
For those of you who’re wondering how to figure out whether love is true or not, Baisakhi explains, “As I mentioned, I don’t say “true” because that is qualifying love. I believe people change. People fall out of love, people feel less love at sometimes and more at other times-the intensity of love increases and decreases. I think more than love, people get attached to each other and that never goes away.”
As for Neha, she puts it beautifully, “For me, the purest form of love is the one an animal gives you. They expect nothing from you, don’t care about how you look, all they want is to shower you with love every second of the day. In the case of humans, well… that’s like a math problem. The perfect test for love, if you ask me, is time. No bigger eye-opener than that.”
There are times we wonder that if true love did exist, then why do couples go through a divorce or separation? Or why do people never find their other half and remain single all their lives? We ask some more.
3. Why do people fall out of love, break up, separate/ divorce or never find love?
Baisakhi adds, “Let me try to answer the ‘never finding love part’ – there could be a number of reasons. I have friends who had very rigid criteria about the person they wanted to fall in love with and that really does not work out. Personally, I found love when I wasn’t looking for it! It also depends on what stage or circumstance you are in, in your life. Sometimes our priorities are different (our careers, education, etc.) and sometimes it’s just timing. Why do people divorce? So many reasons…I’ve heard people just fall out of love or find someone else who at that point of time fulfils a particular need that a person might have. Some people are just not the ones to commit. Some people want to live that fantasy of “being in love” or “being married”…but everyday life is tougher and when that truth hits home, people generally go their separate ways. I also think that we have been fed these fantasies about how life should be that we need to find that perfect life-partner, that we need to experience earth-shattering romance, that we need to feel undying love for someone (and get that kind of love from someone else too). As humans, I think we just give it too much importance -love, marriage, relationships, etc.”
People are in love with the idea of being in love. The moment we feel a strong connection of inclination towards someone we begin to think ‘what if’ and that’s where it goes downhill from. Instead of looking around at our parents, or family to understand what true love actually is; we like the idea of it being the whole violins in the background like in Mein Hoon Na.
“A friend of mine is currently searching for love and has agreed to go with the arranged marriage ordeal to find it. She has gone through a number of meetings and more but despite some great matches and really nice guys, all she says is… she hasn’t felt that feeling love gives you yet. It’s been about 4 years now… we are still waiting for cupid to strike her,” giggles Neha.
She further adds, “She has watched too many sitcoms and movies which has made her believe her Dr Derek/ Mc Dreamy is sitting around the corner waiting for her on a white horse. On the other hand, I had a love marriage. We didn’t go out on dates, there was no proposal, there were no violins, no impromptu dance, no hearts in the air… nothing. But we are completely in love. It worked for us because we decided to get to know each other better and we fell in love. I am not denying that there is a possibility of love at first sight but the point is you should go out there with an opened mind and not preconceived notions of how you want your love to be.”
As Prachi S Vaish, a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist puts it, “We humans want stability, security and above all to belong. Biologically, we are programmed to seek to procreate which again leads us to marry and procreate in a socially acceptable manner. These are the two simplest reasons/motivations that make people fall in love and get married. The break-up/divorce is a slightly tricky part. Sometimes it happens because our partner stops fulfilling the needs they initially did, or we start wanting more than what was sufficient earlier. Sometimes in the process of growing together as individuals as well as couples both start wanting different things from life (this especially happens to those who get together at early ages) and that pushes couples apart. It all boils down to needs and wants.”
4. In the present generation of young couples, is their love & relationships not built to last?
“I don’t think we can generalize like that. But I’ll come back to the fact that people change over the course of any relationship and people change in general. Sometimes one partner changes at a different pace than the other and that’s when the rift begins. Maybe the new generation has more to experience and explore and it becomes overwhelming and difficult to just commit to one person for a long time. Maybe lives are busier-people just don’t have the time to work at a relationship and commitment is not that exciting a concept. Humans, I believe are carnal by nature-we seek pleasure, validation, praise, love and jump at the first person who gives it to us. That’s why people break up and move on to the next person,” explains Baisakhi.
Prachi is of the view that it is unfair to say that only ‘young couples‘ relationships are not built to last. It’s just that among older couples since they spend a long time together (even if in a toxic or decaying relationship) they start feeling that lots more is at stake if they walk away so they ‘appear’ to last longer together. On the other hand, the current younger lot is not lacking for choices and they grow up low on tolerance threshold right from the beginning. They KNOW that if something is not working, they can change it and they are strong enough to bear the consequences. So they prefer to switch rather than stick around.
5. How sustainable is love?
Love is a natural emotion, a feeling of attachment that all of us experience but it’s also ingrained in us that there is something missing in our lives if we don’t find that “one true love”.
According to Baisakhi, she feels that’s a lot of pressure and that is wrong. Love happens for some and for some it doesn’t which is a hard fact and difficult as it may seem, we all need to accept that.
Relationships, especially romantic ones, require constant work and ‘upgradation’, much like software and apps which if you don’t update they become obsolete. What happens instead is, that when problems crop up, a couple gets scared and enters a default escape and avoidance mode rather than a fighting mode. “We would work twice as hard for a promotion at work if we see it slipping, but we’ll go into shut-down mode if it’s our relationship that slips. That’s the fundamental issue with relationships that don’t last long term,” explains Prachi.
Love itself is not over-rated; the idea of how love should LOOK LIKE is over-rated. Books, magazines, movies, all sell us the idea of ‘happily ever after’ where partners read minds, where each act of their gets one’s heart racing, where everything is idyllic and every problem can be solved with a kiss.
Even though this is true for the initial phase of a relationship, gradually when the hormone surge fades, that’s when the true test of a relationship and of a person’s resilience comes into play. The important thing is not how to fit your relationship into the oversold model of love, but instead to see how YOUR unique relationship is evolving and make your own model of love.
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