Milk Teeth

Rating: 5/5

A few chapters into Amrita Mahale’s Milk Teeth, you are caught between the urge to race through the book and the need to ration your reading for fear of finishing it too soon. It isn’t often that a debutante delivers such a deeply immersive story, that too in a voice so rich and nuanced.

Milk Teeth begins like a light hearted rom-com, introducing you to childhood friends, Ira and Kartik, co-habitants of a modest residential building in Matunga. Gradually, though, the plot gathers gravitas, delving into tempestuous relationships, unearthing dark secrets, throwing moral predicaments your way – all against the throbbing, immutable spirit of a city that’s become many a writer’s muse – Bombay!

The story strolls through the city’s palatial structures, dives into its underbelly and emerges to reaffirm the multitude of contradictions, the plurality that is woven so inextricably into its identity. Each character offers a different lens to view the same city through. Ira’s job as a journalist on the civic beat keeps her firmly rooted to reality- to the chaos of local train commute, to the woes of domestic drudgery, to the effort that just keeping one’s head above water (quite literally, sometimes) could demand, in a city like Mumbai.

It is no wonder then that she is drawn to the erudite Kaiz. With his incisive eye for the city’s landscape, fascination for its architecture and ability to place it in a historical context, he is at once a culmination of her intellectual aspirations and a mirror to her insecurities. Kartik, on the other hand, is the most conflicted character in this story. While he enjoys a position of brazen privilege in some walks of life, another part of his world is in absolute tumult. His constant inward tussle to ward off the inevitable is starkly contrasted by his indifference to rein in situations that are in fact in his control.

The real conflict, however, is stirred by the depth of Mahale’s writing, for even as her characters clash, falter, raise hackles, you struggle to choose sides; that is the extent to which you are able to empathise with each of their individual lives and stories.

With this debut novel, Amrita Mahale has set the bar ridiculously high – not just for her own self, but for every other contemporary author aspiring to write Fiction.

-Mitali Bapat

Image Courtesy: www.amazon.in

 

 

Travel with a Twist

They say that “Travel Makes The Heart Grow Fonder,” but in this digitally-led environment that we live in, it seems like our hearts grow fonder just by scrolling through our screens. A thrilling adventure here, a beautiful setting there, all experienced through a picturesque phone screen, has made the concept of travelling so personal and intimate. Remember those computer wallpapers that made us to dream of a getaway ever so often? Well, it seems like now we’re smitten and inspired by people instead, who bring us enticing experiences and striking snapshots in just a click.

Thanks to them, we get bitten by the travel bug and influenced in so many positive ways. And so, we’ve rounded up our list of favourite Travel Influencers a.k.a Digital Nomads who make venturing into the unknown so alluring!

  1. Shivya Nath – The Shooting Star
Image by Shivya Nath

This fierce lady right here quit her corporate job to travel the world. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it? She says, “It was impossible to tame my cubicle-bound soul, I quit my job with the dream of travelling the world on my own terms.” And she did! As you scroll through her blog or Instagram you’ll see the spellbinding mountainous beauty of India to captivating streets of cherry blossom-filled Japan! She has also been location independent since 2013 and claims that the road is her home now. Apart from just posting pretty pictures, one can always find a takeaway on her blog. From gaining tips on how to save for travels to how one can manage visas smartly, Shivya gives you a 360-degree guide to traveling the world, on your own terms of course!

 

2. Anu & Pavan – Hungry Travellers

Image by HUNGRY TRAVELLERS

Anu, Pavan and cute little Kabir bring you travel adventures with a delicious twist. They bring you their experience one step at a time, one bite at a time and one place at a time. These foodies cum travellers’ vision was to build a community of like-minded people who share the same passion when it comes to food and travel. They launched their own café named ‘Hungry Travellers Café’ that serves earthy food with a touch of warm rustic décor. Being parents of a two year old, they also have some tricks up their sleeve, when it comes to travelling with a toddler. So if you have one of your own, you know who you need to stalk! If you’re looking to scout some perfect places for food all over the globe, head to their blog as they detail out every restaurant in every city that’s loaded with deliciousness.

 

3. Siddhartha Joshi – The Wanderer

Image by Siddhartha Joshi

He uses the hashtag #SidTheWanderer and trust us when we say it’s aptly put because as soon as you scroll through his feed, you seem to have wandered away into his inspiring escapes. Rated as one of India’s Top Travel and Living Blog, his space not only encapsulates artistic imagery but also covers travelogues, travel tips, photography tips, and travel videos. His dreamy feed makes you want to book your tickets right away and let’s not forget that his portrait-clicking-flair is quite heartwarming to look at as well. If you’re looking to transcend into a magical space in a World Without Borders (as he rightly believes in), this one’s your inspiring go-to!

 

4. Joshi Daniel

Image by Joshi Daniel

Vibrant setting, enticing snaps and perspective photography is what makes Joshi Daniel a favourite. His passion lies in capturing images of people he’s intrigued by – their stories, faces, cultures, lifestyles etc. A true nomad, Joshi trots down any street to get that perfect click. With several accolades bestowed on him, he truly captures moments with a creative edge. With a burst of colours and spaces, one can scroll through his feed endlessly. See the world through his eyes as he takes you on a journey that’s filled with story-telling and inspiring photography.

 

5. Prasad NP – Desi Traveler 

Image by Prasad Np

Having had enough of his desk job, Prasad realised that he had to stop running the rat race and start travelling, and boy, aren’t we glad he did! His travel stories fare quite differently as there’s always a personal element attached to each of them. He believes in not just showcasing the places, but also the human element in them. His travel blog features almost every state in India that he has explored, to full glory! With his fascinating Instagram feed, one can say that he brings food, people and places together quite effortlessly. If you’re looking to plunge into the authentic Indian world with a Desi twist, your search for an inspiring travelogue ends here. ­

And there you go, this World Tourism Day is dedicated to celebrating those wild souls that run on the fuel of passionate traveling and unfold adventures of nature’s beauty whilst inspiring us to take that picturesque leap!

A Rhyme for a Reason

It’s the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi,
a day that ushers in much joy and piety,
As the festive spirit begins to spread,
let’s make a promise to our Bappa beloved..
Let’s keep our environment safe and clean
and welcome Bappa to grace the scene.

The oceans too are His abode,
Tainting them is something we cannot afford.
Let’s try to celebrate pollution-free,
Have you heard of the idol that becomes a tree?
Music is part of Bappa’s “thaat,”
but He cringes at the deafening decibels of “Zingaat!”
So turn down the volume, noise is no fun
Instead, let aartis rule this season.

Festivities have their own special charm
They can be enjoyed without causing any harm
So round up the family, get in the festive mood,
And don’t guilt-trip yourself for binging on good food!
Make sure you get your fill of yummy modaks,
then rejoice to the rhythm of taasha-dholaks!
Forget all your worries, fling your problems away,
and join us to say, “Bappa Morya re!”

Best Picture Designing Apps

Designing On The Go

The combination of a good copy and an appealing picture is the (open) secret to an engaging post! As it isn’t always possible to have access to Photoshop, one sometimes has to rely on mobile photo editing.

There are several good apps on your phone that help you create stunning content without having to open your laptop, and that too free of cost! Being spoilt for choice, however, isn’t always a good thing. There are so many of these apps that it becomes difficult to choose the best and the most versatile one. So here’s something to make your job easier – a checklist of things to consider while choosing a quick editing app, and a list of our top recommendations.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind to decide which app to opt for:

  • Usability – The app should have a user-friendly interface that’s simple to navigate, so that even if you have no experience in editing, you can still master the app and edit images with ease.
  • Features – It should provide basic as well as some unique features so that one can rely on it to create different varieties of content. For e.g., If the app has only a few filters and limited fonts, one might exhaust all its features after using it for a few times and need to move to another app relatively quickly.
  • Sharing – The app must make it easy to share the edited content without a hassle.
  • Upgrade – It must be able to deliver impressive results with the filter trends, font choices and features it offers. An app which regularly renovates its templates, filters and fonts is a good go-to app.
  • Video + Picture editing – 90 percent of the apps do either photo editing or video editing. An app which does both efficiently, is a clear winner. (We are yet to find a good one, suggestions, please!)

Here are the apps that made it to our list of on-the-go editing apps:

1. Canva

It’s amazing how simple Canva makes designing. Its simple drag/drop format surely scores very high on the usability front.

Pros

  1. Its minimal design, incredible fonts and thousands of templates make it a favourite.
  2. It has a website + an app, so one can switch as per convenience.
  3. The drafts that you are working on are saved on your account and you can continue designing them as and when you desire.

Cons

  1. The only con is that the templates are easily available for everyone to use. If you are editing for a brand, you don’t want your posts to look like someone else’s. One needs to customise them to avoid repetition.

2. Snapseed

Snapseed strikes a good balance between amateur and professional photo editing. There’s your typical level adjustments for exposure, contrast, highlights, etc. but there’s also a bunch of filters for quick adjustments.

Pros

  1. It’s intuitive and suggests good edits for your pictures.
  2. It has a minimalist interface which makes editing easy.
  3. It has a great selection of photographic filters.

Cons:

  1. It requires a little bit of photographic expertise for optimum use.

3. Unfold – Create Stories

One simply cannot deny the growing importance of Instagram stories! Unfold helps you create beautiful stories with its minimal design templates on the go. When Instagram fonts and filters get boring and you want to create minimal yet appealing Insta stories, unfold is your go-to app!

Pros

  1. It has easy-to-use, beautiful templates for your stories. There are a number of fonts, layouts, and designs.
  2. The design interface is user-friendly.

Cons:

  1. Sharing from within the app isn’t available. The edited stories have to be saved on your phone and then shared.

4. 9square FOR INSTAGRAM

Firstly, let’s talk about why we need Instagram grids:

  • Grids make your Instagram feed look great.
  • They give you 3X,6X or 9X times the engagement.
  • They are best used for product reveals and introductions.

If you don’t have access to photoshop, 9square works as a good replacement to get a picture cut into a grid.

Pros:

  1. It gives you high-resolution grid images.
  2. It doesn’t stamp its own logo on your pictures.
  3. The interface is simple to navigate.
  4. The sharing option is available within the app.

Cons

  1. The customisation is limited. You must cut the pictures in the pre-defined format which is available on the app.

5. PicsArt Photo & Collage Maker

Pics Art is your all in one creative suite! With its collage maker, drawing tools, picture editor, camera and more, it becomes a convenient on-the-go editing app.

Pros

  1. It offers a variety of editing tools and filters.
  2. It has a bunch of creative user controls.
  3. There is a robust collage feature available.
  4. It has a wide range of picture import options

Cons

  1. Its interface is cluttered with too many ads.

________________________________________________________________________________

Please note, none of these apps have the power that something like Gimp, Lightroom, or Photoshop has. So for complex picture editing, you’ll still need Photoshop and a graphic designer! Having said that, these apps make on-the-go picture editing quite easy and quick. So take your pick, and go for it!

Influencer Marketing Workup

If there’s anything that can surpass a brand’s love for consumers, it is its affinity towards influencers! And why not?- Recent studies show that on an average, businesses earn $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing. With new influencer accounts mushrooming all over Social Media, however, identifying the appropriate ones for collaboration can be quite a challenge. Here are a few things for businesses to consider:

1. Relevance

Narrow down your search to the category relevant to your brand. Several content creators have a large following, but if they aren’t relevant to your brand, they aren’t valuable to you. Choose an influencer who your target audience can relate to. For a business selling kids’ toys, for example, it’s worth choosing a ‘Mom Blogger,’ so that your target audience (kids’ parents) find the endorsement credible.

2. Content

Influencers need freedom to create their own content (within the framework of your brand guidelines), for the communication to come across as organic storytelling as opposed to product selling. It is therefore essential to shortlist only those influencers whose sensibilities are aligned with the vision and ethos of your business. So if your brand sells organic health food, don’t think twice before crossing out an influencer who endorses (or has in the past endorsed) aerated drinks or junk food!

3. Legitimacy

The number of followers is not always the best metric to go by in picking a collaborator. There are a whole lot of tools available today that enable the purchase of follower accounts. Have a look at the person’s followers to make sure that they are genuine as well as representative of your target audience. If you find that most of the followers are inactive or don’t seem authentic, that’s a definite red flag.

4. Engagement

Engagement is a sensitive indicator of an account’s credibility. In many instances, as reported by Forbes, micro-influencers (niche influencers with a relatively lower following) tend to have a more concentrated loyal follower base, with higher engagement levels vis-à-vis the big guys with a massive following. An engaged audience is a testimony not just to the influencers’ reach, but also to their content quality.

5. Commercials

Assess the scale of your campaign and budget before approaching an influencer. A monetary engagement may not necessarily yield optimum results. Social Media offers a space for influencers to voice their sentiments about brands in a variety of ways; research these. Sometimes, influencers agree to post a review in exchange for a product sample, if they do like your brand. Explore such alternatives, especially in the case of smaller businesses.

None of the above factors can vouch for the reliability of an influencer in isolation. They must all be reviewed collectively to get the best out of your influencer marketing initiative. And yes, it looks like a lot of work, but when you do ultimately strike that perfect brand-influencer fit, it’s all well worth the effort!

Home Fire

Rating: 4/5

Kamila Shamsie’s seventh and most recent novel, Home Fire, is nothing short of a literary masterpiece. A contemporary retelling of Sophocles’ celebrated Antigone, Home Fire is a remarkable rendition of conflicting loyalties explored against a backdrop of violence, terror and politics.

Shamsie confers the role of the eponymous Antigone upon Aneeka Pasha – a vivacious, willful British-Pakistani nineteen-year old who shares an inseparable bond with her twin, Parvaiz. Abandoned at a very young age by a radicalized father and orphaned by the death of their mother, the twins have been raised by their elder sister, Isma, who is now a PhD scholar in Massachusetts. The family’s association with Eamonn Lone, the son of Britain’s newly elected Home Secretary of Pakistani descent, brings the story closer to the Greek myth it is based on, drawing fascinating parallels between the ancient Sophoclean characters and their adapted, modern-day counterparts.

Not that the Pashas have ever had a simple, stable life- the siblings have grown up learning to say they never knew their father- but while Aneeka has internalized this reality, Parvaiz gives in to the lures of Islamist propaganda in trying to acquaint himself with his deceased father. When he absconds from home to join the ISIS, his sisters are faced with the excruciating dilemma of choosing between the voice of reason and the ties of love.

This premise plays out in a volatile turn of events that drag you to the crossroads of citizenship and home, state and family, duty and loyalty, begging you to ask yourself how far you would go for the people you love. Despite the plot’s inherent sense of pathos, the author does not resort to any superfluous drama. Her narration is understated and wonderfully honest. There are parts of the story that may seem a tad unconvincing or even abrupt (and which cannot be discussed in detail without giving out spoilers.. so we wont!), but on the whole, Shamsie’s refined writing takes centre stage, relegating these peccadilloes to the periphery.

The book powerfully underlines what it means to live as a Muslim in the world we inhabit today, to have your allegiance questioned on the basis of your religious faith, to be demanded validation for the only identity you’ve ever called your own and to be rejected by the only place you think of as home. Irrespective of whether you like Fiction or not, whether you’re familiar with the original epic or not, if you enjoy reading, Home Fire is a must-read.

– Mitali Bapat

Image Courtesy: www.goodreads.com

 

 

Beyond Words

Content writing is like a long distance relationship- everyone thinks they can do it, until they have to.

Writing- the backbone of most creative ideas- is somehow seen as a low-hanging fruit attainable by anyone venturing into the digital space. Amid the glitz of flashy visuals and hashtags, the quality of writing often takes a back seat in the mind of the client and sometimes even in the office of a creative agency. So if you’re looking to up your content game, here’s the ABC (and D and E!) to start off with.

Aim
Semantics means nothing unless backed by a lucid thought process.

Before you start writing, clarify the purpose of your piece to yourself – What does it aim to do? Who is it for? Individual interpretations of readers may vary, but as a writer you need to be decisive about what you wish to convey. Frame a precise, one-line response to the question “What is the objective of this write-up?” for your own reference. This will serve as a reality check each time you find yourself drifting from the central idea.

Brevity
Verbosity is kryptonite to content; it can suck the magic out of even the most intriguing story. (And yet, ironically, there’s a lot to say about it!)

In the digital realm, economy effects eloquence. Ditch those weather-beaten tropes like “Content is king!” They add length without adding value. Similarly, resist the temptation to use ornate language in every instance- fancy vocabulary isn’t always the most fitting. Be it a fictional account, a biographical episode, a think piece, or even a Social Media post, the goal is to make maximum impact in the least number of words. Try this exercise- Articulate your point in the shortest possible (grammatically correct) sentence. That will help you shelve all those mildly suitable words and retain only the ones that nail the meaning of your message.

Continuity
There’s a fine line between succinct and staccato; make sure you don’t cross it.

Brevity need not interfere with the flow of your story – both structurally and in terms of ideas. Aim for a seamless transition, from one sentence to the next, one thought to the next. What can help is, putting your work away once you’re done with it and revisiting it after a couple of hours, rather than reviewing it right away. In the midst of writing, you tend to become blind to even obvious errors and breaks in continuity. Switching off for some time puts you in a headspace that’s more conducive for critique. You can also put your writing through this fun vocal test to gauge how smooth it is – Read it out aloud. If the sequence of words flows off your tongue with ease, you’re good to go; if not, you know you need some edits.

Distinction
A good narrative hinges on a clear point of view.

There’s almost nothing you can say today that hasn’t already been said by Google (or whatever your favourite search engine is). What you can offer is a unique perspective, be it on behalf of a brand or your own intimate musings. There are a million ways to look at the same thing, but the one you choose defines your story. Take a moment to reflect, to find your viewpoint. Now this doesn’t mean you have to be intense or melancholic. Even humour (good, original humour!) stems from incisive observation and depth of thought. Regardless of genre, let your writing style emerge from a distinct vantage point.

Experiences
Experiences are important, but an eye for them is more so.

Beware of those wanderlusty memes that make you believe you’re worth nothing if you’re not a “traveller,” or those movies that tell you only dark moments can kindle creativity. A trek to Machu Picchu or a tryst with heartbreak could very well be life-changing events, but you don’t have to drain your bank account and you definitely don’t have to subject yourself to torture, to find inspiration. Seemingly mundane scenarios like a drive to work, a chat with a stranger, or an interesting line in a book can also be stimulating. Engage with your environment, look for layers, turn everything you possibly can into a storytelling opportunity.

Syntax cannot make up for a lack of substance. Invest as much effort in developing perceptive views, as you would in transcribing them. A writer’s job may take up a few hours of the day, but a writer’s vision is a permanent state of mind.

The Postcard Effect

If you grew up in (or before) the 90’s, you’re familiar with the thrill of peering through the little slits of your letterbox, in the anticipation of finding a personalized note inside. (And if you didn’t..

Continue Reading