5 Binge-Worthy Shows To Watch During Quarantine

 

We’re in the era of social distancing. As we stay at home with more time than usual on our hands, web series have gradually replaced most other sources of entertainment in our lives. So just in case you’re running out of content to watch or need some recommendations, here are some underrated gems from the realm of online streaming. 

Gullak (Streaming on SonyLIV) 

TVF (The Viral Fever) proudly lives up to its reputation of creating heartwarming content, with Gullak. Narrated from the perspective of a gullak (piggy bank), the show explores the dynamics of the Indian middle-class. The series chronicles the life of the Mishra family, who face everyday challenges that a quintessential middle-class family would face. Despite the challenges and imperfections, their love always shines through. The series follows an unconventional yet extremely endearing style of storytelling. This 5-episode series is a medley of emotions, learnings and laughter, all rolled into one. It’s definitely a treat to watch.

Barry (Streaming on Hotstar) 

Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s Emmy-winning dark comedy has been hailed as the new Breaking Bad by many critics—perhaps, rightly so. Barry will give you several glimpses into the darker side of human nature on one hand, and make you laugh on the other. The plot concerns Barry, a former US marine turned hitman who is hired to assassinate a member of an acting workshop but winds up falling in love with acting instead. Tempted to give up killing for his newfound love, Barry finds himself leading a dangerous double life. What’s on the cards for Barry? Watch to find out. You’ll be hooked, we promise. 

The Haunting of Hill House (Streaming of Netflix) 

Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House strikes a completely different note from your regular, jump scare-y horror projects. The show unfolds the story of the Crain family and the terror that accompanies them through half of their lives. The family that moves into a Massachusetts estate in the early 1990s, find themselves confronting the tormenting memories of their past. To know what we’re talking about, wait till you watch the sixth episode. You’ll find everything that makes this series so scary, inviting and as creepy as the empty windows of the Crain property. Watch it for its unique casting, incredible direction and engaging storytelling. Super bingeable! 

This is us (Streaming on Hotstar)

This is Us is not only one of the lesser-known shows but also one of the best of recent times. Featuring an incredibly talented cast of Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown and others, this brilliant family drama will manage to tug at your heartstrings effortlessly. The story follows the lives of the Pearsons and goes back and forth to showcase intricate details that make the characters who they are at present. Through its thought-provoking storytelling, this feel-good piece of art will change your perspective about family and relationships in a uniquely effective way. Watch it if you haven’t already, and get ready to experience all the feels! 

Upload (Streaming on Amazon Prime) 

From the vault of ‘The Office’ veteran Greg Daniels, Upload takes a look at the concept of the afterlife. The series is set in the year 2033, where life after death is a possibility. Technology has been invented for anyone who can afford, to upload their entire consciousness to an afterlife digital community. Everyone stuck in this digital afterlife can still interact with their living friends and family, and see what’s happening in the living world via giant screens.  The story follows Nathan Brown, an app developer, who meets with a horrible self-driving car accident. On his deathbed, Nathan chooses to have himself uploaded to his girlfriend’s luxurious virtual afterlife. Upload is a satirically brilliant take on the afterlife and capitalism—portrayed through Nathan’s experience. 

We may have to stay home for an indefinite period, but we hope these shows fill every second of your time. Enjoy watching them and also drop your recommendations in the comments below. 

Beyond Pride Month

Around the world, June is commemorated as Pride Month, in memory of the Stonewall riots that led to the queer rights movement in the US. Every year, Pride Month sees global and local initiatives highlighting LGBTQIA+ issues and acknowledging milestones in the history of the movement. It has also become a mainstream practice for brands to participate in this celebration with “pride-themed” logos, campaigns and promotions. And while this can be a tool to build awareness, it often ends up becoming yet another employer branding tactic that doesn’t necessarily benefit those that it’s meant to; come July, it’s back to business as usual with the promise of inclusiveness long buried and forgotten. 

So what’s the right way to go about it? How can cis-het people go beyond performative gestures, to offer sustained support and authentic solidarity?

Be it larger companies with proactive HR policies, smaller organisations wondering if they have the means to make a difference, or individuals wanting to be better allies — the 101 of true inclusiveness is listening to the voices that matter. There is no resource more insightful than people from within the community sharing their lived experiences; and a lot of them are using Social Media in powerful ways to share their stories, struggles and success. 

Here are some useful, reliable resources — a list of organisations and people using the digital medium to amplify the voices of queer-trans persons and those working in this sphere: 

Organisations and Collectives 

Repository of resources on queer affirmative mental health and affiliated issues, curated by the mental health practitioners and participants of MHI’s Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) cohort. 

As a funding agency for innovative mental health initiatives, MHI focuses on making mental health accessible to marginalised persons and communities. Follow @mariwalahealth for insights on queer lives, issues and mental health.

Queer Feminist Resource Group working with queer women and trans persons. 

Nazariya works towards affirming the rights of queer people (LBT) by enabling an environment where their lived realities are non negotiable and inform the work and discourse of organisations and institutions. Read more

Organisation run by transgender persons that has contributed to the legal recognition of the transgender community in India. 

They continue to make milestone changes in the lives of transgender people through art. 

LGBTQ+ Allies Youth Network/Collective to educate, equip and empower adolescents and the youth of Manipur and North East India, through advocacy and capacity building services on health, education and sexuality.

India’s first archive of politicians supporting LGBTQIA+ rights. 

Located at the intersection of politics, queerness, and technology, they aim to push for accountability and transparency from our elected representatives. Check out State of the Qunion, their largest project so far. 

Student-run organisation working to create awareness about the issues faced by Indian LGBTQIA+ people around the world. Read more.  

Blog for LGBTQIA+ identifying people to share their personal stories. 

What began as a platform for LGBTQIA+ identifying folx from the South Asian subcontinent has now evolved into a space with diverse content from authors across the globe. Read more.  

Thought Leaders 

Shruti is a queer feminist psychotherapist. She is the Chief Advisor at Mariwala Health Initiative and part of the Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) faculty. Her areas of engagement include mental health, gender, sexuality and human rights.

  • Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju 

After two decades of feeling like she had lived in the wrong body, Trinetra decided to change her social, legal and biological identity to match what her mind was telling her. Here, she shares her experience and talks about the importance of empathy and acceptance.

Follow @ind0ctrination

Social Communities 

Stories that counter queerphobia 

Archive of India’s queer history 

Community that raises awareness about LGBTQIA+ issues in India

Allyship is an ongoing journey — a continuous process of unlearning and relearning, of engaging with one’s own discomfort, questioning it and demonstrating solidarity through actions. So let’s look beyond the rainbows and unicorns and seek real change.   

 

 

5 Swiggy Campaigns We Absolutely Love!

Started in 2014, the food ordering and delivery startup Swiggy has emerged to become India’s most valuable food delivery platform within just 6 years from its inception. Starting out as a late entrant in an overcrowded market, the brand has carved a niche for itself by becoming a dynamic brand that connects with their consumers through short, relatable stories rooted in real consumer behaviour.

Speaking of the brand’s creative success, here are 5 Swiggy campaigns we absolutely love:

  1. #WhatsInAName

In a heart-warming video that struck a chord with millions of Indians, Swiggy’s #WhatsInAName campaign urged their users to acknowledge the unique identity of their delivery partners and to address them by their names. The video showcases an intriguing flashback about the delivery partner’s past and blends it in with the present day, wherein it has become a practice to address them simply as “Swiggy”. The video conveys a powerful message that these hunger warriors – like each one of us – have a name that they would like everybody to acknowledge.

 

  1. Voice Of Hunger

Swiggy’s innovative campaigns have proved to be a gamechanger in the brand’s onward success and boosted its following on the digital platforms. Through an indigenous Voice Of Hunger campaign using Instagram’s audio note feature, they challenged the users to create sound waveforms in the shape of different food items and send them via direct messenger to the brand’s Instagram. As a reward to their consumers, the brand handed out a year’s worth of food vouchers to the users completing the five-day challenge. The challenge received more than 10,000 entries a day during its run, making it one of their most well-received campaigns till date.

 

  1. Swiggy Karo, Phir Jo Chahe Karo!

Some of Swiggy’s best work came in during IPL 2018. The platform’s witty campaigns with simple storylines and minimum dialogues became a rage. A 20-second spot highlighting the brand’s ‘Swiggy Karo, Phir Jo Chahe Karo’ campaign was one of the best from the series. A middle-aged man orders just one piece of gulab jamun from Swiggy and pops it in his mouth without his wife getting to know about it. The ad has no dialogue between the characters but with endearing expressions from the actors and running commentary on TV during a cricket match, it sends across the brand’s promise to deliver even the smallest order to their customers. The narrative focusing on how Swiggy brings convenience in the lives of the consumers reigned over the hearts of people.

 

  1. Swiggy Stores

Continuing its creative spell, Swiggy unveiled its latest venture – Swiggy Stores, a delivery system designed to instantly deliver anything you need from any store across your city. The brand promoted this service through a series of campaigns that portray relatable situations when you really need something but just can’t leave your home to get it.

 

 

  1. Changing the Way India Eats

Back in 2018 when Swiggy was emerging as one of India’s popular online food delivery services, they rolled out one of their first TV campaigns to strengthen their presence beyond the digital platforms. As part of the campaign, Swiggy came up with five spots showcasing different occasions like a house party, cooking gone wrong, parents out of town, unexpected guests and game nights, when people order food.

 

So, that was our take on some of the most loved Swiggy campaigns of all time. Tell us about your favourite Swiggy campaign in the comments below.

– Chirag Shetty

5 Bang on Diwali Campaigns

Ah! Diwali…the festival of lights, sweets and awesome brand campaigns! That’s right; Diwali hits the motherload when it comes to creative communication. Brand creativity is really pushed to its finest limits – All those hours spent ideating for a creative brand-centric campaign do pay off, as you can see with the five campaigns we’ve chosen from last year.

  1. Canon

Reminding us to shift the focus of our Diwali celebrations from ‘me’ to ‘we’ is this ingenious campaign conceived by Canon.

The festive season is always looked at as a time of happiness and enjoyment, Canon encourages its customers to magnify their Diwali celebrations by focusing more on giving rather than receiving.

Posted across all social media platforms with the hashtags #ShiftYourFocus and #SpreadTheFestivity Canon’s campaign takes us through a number of causes one can give to, to spread the festivity.

  1. Coca Cola

Trust Coca Cola to always deliver a heart-warming connect to their campaigns. Their campaign ‘Iss Diwali, Har Dil Bola Tere Naam Ki Coca-Cola’ aims to connect cultures in this time of festivity, through a heart-warming one-minute video. Coca-cola’s approach to Diwali as being a time for cultural harmony is what gives this message an edge and makes it memorable for many.

  1. Oppo F9 Pro

Oppo integrates their brand message into their campaign with subtlety, reminding us that the best Diwali gifts are the ones that keep us connected. In four and a half minutes, Oppo manages to weave a touching tale about a mother and her adoptive daughter. We loved the positive way in which Oppo has approached the discourse around adoption, giving us a message that families are not made by blood, but by bond and acceptance.

  1. Saregama

Saregama’s #ShorYaSangeet Diwali campaign shows us how a social message coupled with ingeniously understated product promotion makes for a great campaign. This campaign urges people to be considerate of the safety of not just aged people, but also of animals, bringing a humane touch to Saregama’s product.

The ad’s use of an old couple’s home, an Indian dog-breed and old Hindi songs brilliantly brings a little nostalgia and an Indian cultural connect to their brand.

  1. Vodafone

A simple message reminding us to take our Diwali celebrations from the mobile screens to experiencing it ourselves is Vodafone’s #LookUp campaign. This video underlines how technology has gripped us and distanced us from the true warmth and essence of Diwali, but finally ends on a happy, positive note.

Turns out some of the best Diwali brand campaigns are not only ones that are brand centric but also ones that help us attain a new perspective on how we celebrate our Diwali, which is exactly why this campaign makes it to our list of 5 best Diwali Campaigns of last year.

 

– Donna Amo

 

Review: 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