In the Spotlight – Saksham Kulkarni

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Saksham Kulkarni, a young Marathi actor best recognised for his roles in Pak Pak Pakaak and De Dhakka, among others. Read on to know his story.

Tell us about your journey— what inspired you to get into acting? 

My family has always been an art lover. So while growing up, I was exposed to many good films, listened to eminent singers, and watched good plays. And I was totally fascinated. Since childhood, my family always encouraged me to take part in various extracurricular activities such as elocution competitions, fancy dress competitions, and I used to love it on stage. There was no stage fright. So we figured if I feel confident on stage, how about giving auditions for the camera. I gave a couple of auditions and got my first acting part when I was in 4th grade. My family always supported and encouraged me to improve my acting techniques. I attended many theatre and film workshops which helped me a lot. 

 Describe the experience of working on your debut film, Pak Pak Pakaak. 

It was truly amazing. I was 12 years old back then. More than 300 kids had auditioned for the part. The makers liked my audition so much that I was finalised instantly. The director, Gautam Joglekar, encouraged me to give my best in every scene. He gave me good insights while we were developing the character of Chikhloo which helped me a lot. Working with Nana Patekar taught me a lot of things. Many scenes were improvised on the set. It helped me to improve my improvisation skill. Also, since we were shooting on film, I got to know the production side as well. We used to rehearse a shot many times until we thought it was ready to be captured. I still remember Nana kaka and Gautam dada telling me, ‘Keep on rehearsing until you think it is good enough.’ Everyone on set truly believed that we were making something unique and which will be cherished many years down the line. 

Share your most memorable ‘Behind the scenes’ story from a film/series you were a part of. 

The scene in Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho where Bharat Jadhav accidentally hits me with a bat; was pretty late in the night when we started shooting that scene. Everyone was really tired and sleepy but we knew that this scene was the most important part of the film. Mahesh Manjrekar called Bharat kaka and me and told us that this is the room where we will be filming the scene. He told us that he wanted the scene in one shot to maintain the intensity. He told us to improvise the whole scene, and the camera was to be placed according to our improvisation. It was an amazing experience for me to improvise with Bharat kaka and Mahesh kaka. I feel blessed that I could work with such experienced directors and actors at a very young age. It has always kept me motivated to improve my craft. 

If you had to choose between films or theatre, which one would it be and why?

This is a tough one. But I would say theatre. I love the adrenaline rush when the 3rd bell rings. The reaction of the audience is instant. You get so much energy. Overall the process of setting a play has always fascinated me. You can explore so many things. I did a play Mirad- A Boy From Bosnia, in which I had to play 11 characters. We started rehearsing 2-3 months before we performed for an audience. We worked on every character minutely. How a character would walk, talk, sit, etc. And when I finally performed on stage the feeling of satisfaction was just great. 

Who’s the one director you want to work with and why? 

There are so many I look up to, who really inspire me. To pick one of them, I would say Christopher Nolan. I am really in awe of his storytelling. All of his films are unique in their own way. He is so passionate about his work that I remember in an interview, he had mentioned that many producers had rejected his debut film Following, so he paid from his salary and made the film anyway. It took him a year to complete it. But he never gave up. 

Which actor (male or female) would you consider as your ultimate inspiration?

Daniel Day-Lewis. He is a legend. The detail he brings to each character he plays is amazing. He manages to reach the depth of the character flawlessly. In the film Gangs of New York, it was his idea to have an eagle in the eye. He is truly an ultimate inspiration. 

If your life were to be made into a web series/biopic, what would it be called?

I feel I have to work a lot, learn a lot, explore a lot and achieve a lot. After that people can decide whether my life could be an inspiration for others to be made into a biopic. But for fun, let’s say ‘Saksham- The Capable.’

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

  • Direct a film
  • Do a film in any language other than Hindi and Marathi
  • Learn to dance properly😂😂

What’s that one piece of advice you would like to give to people who are looking to get into acting professionally? 

Glamour is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of hard work needs to be put in. It’s not as easy as it looks. 

Where can people get in touch with you?

I am not that social a person, but you can get in touch with me on Instagram.

5 eye-opening environmental documentaries you should watch right now

It’s undeniable that we’re facing the biggest environmental challenge humanity has ever seen. Climate change is real and it’s happening at a pace faster than we can imagine. The first step towards doing anything about this environmental emergency is recognising its existence.

This World Environment Day, we recommend watching these five documentaries that will inspire you to take action.

  1. Seaspiracy

Where to stream: Netflix

Ali Tabrizi, a child who loved the seas, the oceans, and the life beneath them, grew up to learn about the conspiracies that impact their health. The documentary shows his journey of discovering the human impact on marine life. With heart-breaking and real visuals, Ali has exposed the ill practices of the fishing industry, a major cause of the extinction of various marine species. Their extinction not only destroys the aquatic life but the life on land as well. Watch the ninety-minute documentary to learn how human existence depends on marine life and what is the only solution to help prevent their extinction. 

  1. Before The Flood

Where to stream: Disney+ Hotstar 

“Climate change is real and is happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species.” These words from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning speech resonate with this 2016 documentary that unfolds the darkest truths of climate change. Produced and presented by Dicaprio, it follows his three-year journey attempting to document the devastating impact of the environmental crisis. His collection of interviews – from Barack Obama and the Pope through climate leaders from India and China – will help you grasp the magnitude of climate change and how we all can come together to reverse its impact. Highly recommended!

  1. The Year Earth Changed

Where to stream: Apple TV+ 

The Year Earth Changed is an AppleTV+ production and is one of the sweetest documentaries for animal and wildlife lovers. Filmed during the pandemic of 2020 and narrated by David Attenborough, this documentary beautifully captures the positive changes in wildlife behaviour across the globe due to reduced human intervention during the lockdown. The stunning visuals and the breathtaking locations make this a must-watch while leaving you with a lot of bittersweet thoughts.

  1. Kiss the Ground

Where to stream: Netflix

An optimistic climate documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson, that chronicles the healing power of the soil, which could offer a solution to the climate crisis. A beautifully made movie that teaches and reminds us of the fundamentals of life. Kiss the Ground will fill you with the hope that uniting with nature and its creatures will transform our world for good. One noteworthy takeaway from this documentary: Heal the soil, heal the planet! 

  1. David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet 

Where to stream: Netflix A Life On Our Planet is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature told by Sir Attenborough himself. It tells the story of how much the planet has changed during the 95-year-old naturalist’s lifetime – and how the clock is ticking for the planet. This moving documentary, however, also brings hope about the positive movements happening around the world and inspires us to care for the planet a little more. A must-watch!

Top 5 Video Editing Apps for Instagram Reels

Short videos have become a rage in recent years. With Instagram Reels becoming popular, the demand for video editing tools is more than ever before. So, if you are a budding Reels creator looking to crack the code, here’s our pick for the best video editing tools to create those crisp and engaging videos.

  1.  Inshot   

First on our list is Inshot. It’s among the most popular Reels video editors out there. The ability to have custom ratios, variety of fonts, effects and music, makes it a must-have tool to create those perfect, vertical Reels. 

What we like

  • It has a huge list of video editing features like creating a slow-motion video, time-lapse or flipping videos. 
  • The drafts can be saved. This means you can pick from where you left without the hassle of starting all over again. 
  •  You can add animated stickers, emojis and custom images to your reels. 

 What we don’t like 

  • You need to get a paid version to remove watermarks from your videos. 

2.     Adobe Premiere Rush

It’s another popular choice for creating Instagram Reel or any other short videos.

Why we like it

  • The app has standard video editing tools like trimming, shadow, adjusting exposure.
  • The app has an intuitive UI, options for video aspect ratio, motion graphic templates and many more useful features.

What we don’t like

  • The free version allows you to export only three videos in a month, which can be a bummer if you’re someone who uploads regularly. 

 3.       FilmoraGo

FilmoraGo is another popular video editor app for creating Instagram Reels available on Android and iOS both. It supports various aspect ratios and has all standard video editing features to make your Instagram Reels look professional. 

What we like  

  • It has some great video effects that you’ll not find on other editors.
  • It will give a professional look to your videos.
  • It has pretty good fonts and overlays.  
  • It supports voice-overs. 

What we don’t like

  • It puts watermarks on videos, so you’ll need to subscribe to the premium version if you want to remove the watermarks.

4.       YouCut

If you hate watermarks just like us, YouCut is the app for you. It’s a free editing app that brings you features like multiple custom ratios, fonts, cool video effects – all important for creating high-quality Reels. Additionally, it also allows you to import your own music, or you can pick from their library, which is a bonus. 

What we like 

  • It adds no watermark to the videos, which is a big yay!
  • The app has a library of royalty-free music.
  • It allows you to change the background, play with different fonts and also lets you choose the aspect ratio. 

What we don’t like

  • This app is only available for Android and not iOS.

5.       KineMaster

KineMaster is our final editor on this list. It comes with all the amazing video editing functions you need in an app to make your videos stand out.  

What we like 

  • It allows you to apply filters, add music, voice-overs, transitions, and custom fonts. 
  • It allows you to combine multiple videos, images, and texts. 

What we don’t like

  • You will have to buy the premium version if you don’t want watermarks on your videos. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

In the Spotlight – Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar, the founder of Bleed Red Go Green and a core team member of Green the red, talking about her journey as a menstrual health educator. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey. What inspired you to start your venture Bleed Red Go Green?

BRGG is a collective of like-minded people who want to work in remote areas of India as well as urban areas. Both areas need education when it comes to menstrual and reproductive health. I have been a Menstrual and Reproductive Health educator for 7+ years. I am already a core group member of PAN India collective Green the Red. My journey into this started when I moved to Chhattisgarh for a fellowship in 2013. I was designated to work with the residential school of Dantewada, and that changed me a lot in good ways. My journey towards minimalism and menstrual health education began there. Since no one picks our garbage in rural areas, it is either in our backyard or buried or burnt. This moved me. And the lack of awareness about my own body led me to become what I am today.

How does your initiative help create menstrual health awareness in rural areas? 

We turned 2 in April and we are growing. So far we got to work with some volunteers, NGOs, adolescents from tribal areas, especially of Chhattisgarh and some parts of Odisha. We got to interact with teachers and understand their perspective. Before the pandemic, we used to visit schools, villages, and slums for awareness sessions and since the pandemic, we started doing this online and people all around India started joining our webinars. We have also done sessions to empower people to make their own reusable cloth pads. Recently, we helped set up a cloth pad making unit in the slums of Mumbai.

What are some environment-friendly menstrual hygiene habits that people should practise?

We have been using cloth as a menstrual hygiene product for decades. It’s the most sustainable option since it’s available at home, you don’t have to go to the market or purchase anything.  It’s made of cotton, it will decompose in soil when buried/composted. However, not everyone is comfortable with that since cloth is being marketed as dirty and discomforting by multinational companies to sell their disposable products. Today, modern options like cloth pads, menstrual cups, period panties, etc. are available. They are not only eco-friendly but comfortable and convenient, too. They are reusable for many years, thus saving money, the environment and your body from rashes and harmful chemicals.

What are some of the misconceptions about menstrual health that should end?

There are plenty, but I will talk about the basic ones – the foundation. Firstly, we should stop telling children to hide their naked bodies soon after the bath. Body-shaming starts there. We keep everything under wraps and don’t let logical, scientific information about our own bodies flow. We shun the questions or discussions about our bodies as private and something ridiculous. This needs to stop from a young age. This is the reason why menstruators don’t know that they have 3 different openings down there and they don’t pee and menstruate from the same place. There are really illogical, unscientific beliefs and unrealistic expectations about the structure and composition of the body which leads to unnecessary fears about using internal menstrual products and even sexual intercourse.

What are the challenges you face running this collective, and how do you try and overcome them?

Right now, most of the team is based in different parts of Chhattisgarh and some of us are in other places. So that is one challenge. Meeting digitally has its own pros and cons. We all have different energy levels and skill sets, yet everyone brings diversity and richness to it.

The practice of menstrual segregation is still prevalent across many Indian households, with menstruators being made to follow customs that may be completely unscientific. What are some of the strangest social taboos you’ve come across in this regard, and how do you counter them?

We have heard that women can’t bathe, touch water or plants, because they are ‘impure’. Segregation is something that some people actually look forward to while some people don’t like to be held. Menstrual segregation is a ‘leave policy’ that everyone is raving about currently, but it’s dipped in misogyny, patriarchy and unscientific beliefs and lack of choice.

In our approach, we do not criticise these practices, instead, we enable participants to think critically about the taboos. Scientific information is the biggest tool to empower people with correct information about their own bodies and how they work. It slowly but certainly changes their perspectives and provides them with the means to decide what is best for them. We consistently speak about this and include other family members; not just menstruators to change the scenario.

You are a strong proponent of menstrual cups. In your experience, what are the most common concerns women face in switching to menstrual cups (or most common reasons for women wanting to, but being hesitant to switch to menstrual cups)? How do you address these?

I promote all reusable options and give people a choice to decide what works best for them. Women have fears about using menstrual cups. They think it may get lost or stuck inside. Some of them have hygiene concerns. We suggest simple, correct techniques to use these products solve also answer the concerns they have. It has a learning curve.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media accounts and why?

Ecofemme, Thebloodyfeminist, EmbodyworkLA, Frangipanji and Rangeen Khidki.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with people?

Social Media has helped me meet many like-minded people. We have so many supporters.  It also helped people know what we do and approach us for awareness sessions and small projects. It has also led to many great collaborations and a chance to speak for a second time at a TEDx event (feeling shy to share this).

Where can people get in touch with you?

[email protected] is an email address to contact BRGG. We also have our Instagram handle and Facebook page.

How to effectively market on Instagram with a constantly changing algorithm

2021 has brought in a new change in the Instagram algorithm and marketeers are all looking for ways to crack the magical code to still be able to market effectively.

Well, here’s the good news, you can actually use it to your advantage!

Figuring out how the algorithm works will help you find ways to get the best out of your campaigns. So let’s start by understanding what this change entails and how it can be used for your brand’s benefit. 

The Change

Instagram is very closely reviewing our content and controlling the organic reach on our accounts. It takes help from the past behaviour of our followers, audience and our own activities to do this.

It is primarily controlling the following features with the latest algorithm:

  • The Audience (Who will see your post)
  • The Reach (How many will see your post and which posts will make it to the explore tab)
  • The Priority (Which post will make it to feed and in which order)

Basically, creating a scenario where the best content wins!

Factors that influence the change

Here is a quick breakdown of the 6 key factors that influence the algorithm on feed posts. 

                   Sources: Hootsuite, Later, Buffer and Sprout Social

An easier way to explain this is, Instagram is controlling audience behaviour on two feeds, one being the timeline where people see posts from their followers and the second being the explore tabs where they see posts from people they don’t follow. Along with this, audiences’ behaviour on these feeds, such as comments, likes, saves, shares and the time they spend on a post is also tracked. 

Therefore, the posts we create have to show content that is engaging, relatable, and high quality.

By considering these factors, our campaigns and marketing strategies can stay far from becoming prey to the algorithm.

Instagram’s response to audience’s reaction on the change

Instagram stated that what shows up first in your feed is primarily based on your own activity.

However, this is perhaps Instagram’s way to gain more screen time from its audience. If you are active and people tend to spend a lot of time engaging with your posts, Instagram rewards you with the ‘Explored Trophy’.

Rising above the change 

The new algorithm has left people with questions on how to maximize engagement taking the change into account. Not just that, but also on how to create a campaign that works wonders despite the frequently occuring algorithm changes.

However, an additional point to be considered is that a drop in engagement is not always due to the change in algorithm.

Here are some strategies that give the Instagram algorithm exactly what it wants.

  • Embrace the latest features
    Instagram will always reward the accounts supporting their new features. So do not hesitate in trying them all out.

  • Post Consistently
    Instagram does not check whether accounts are posting consistently before ranking your posting. However, a consistent presences helps build a good connection with your audience.
  • Post when you’re audience is online
  • Post good quality, aesthetically pleasing photographs
    It’s an established fact that good content ranks high on your audience’s feed. And you may have experienced this yourself, that visually striking content attracts your audiences’ eye and makes them hit like.

  • Post hashtags effectively, stop using old hashtags
    Include hashtags on your posts that ensure your posts are searchable. The more eyes on your posts, the better it is.
  • Go live more often
    Instagram Live generates a notification to your followers and puts itself ahead of your followers’ story feed which gives you good visibility.

  • Cross-Promote on Instagram
    To help increase your algorithm ranking, cross-posting on Instagram is a quick and easy hack. You can strategically cross-post your IGTV on your reel or your feed post on your story to get better reach.

The ever changing algorithm is easy to tackle when you adapt, strengthen your campaign strategy and of course, remember that quality content always wins.

While you get to experimenting with the new algorithm, here’s a small takeaway, ‘save is the new like’. We will be showcasing a comprehensive research on this metric in our next blog, stay tuned!

In the Spotlight – Yashvi Dhal

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Yashvi Dhal, the founder of Mad Batter, spilling the beans on her tryst with baking and the triumphs and travails of running a business. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to start your own baking business?

I’ve baked my entire life and it wasn’t something I was always spectacular at, but I loved it. I love the idea that the same staple ingredients can turn into drastically different flavours and textures.  Turning it into the business that it is today happened by accident. I love to bake what I love to eat. And I love Cheesecake! I found myself drawing a blank one night when I was looking to get a slice of a classic New York Style cheesecake, so I took it upon myself to make my age-old family recipe. The leftovers were then sent across to friends and family. That’s how Mad Batter started.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with your audience?

The way I look at it is, the ability to create content, communicate and engage with your audience is the most personal through social media. I have built Mad Batter and connected with its core audience almost entirely through Instagram and Facebook. These platforms have essentially allowed me to reach the right people, and cater to them with the right content and communication. It has allowed me to build a long-term customer base and some great friends as well.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced during the pandemic? How have you tried to deal with it?

Challenges came at us in 2 forms: logistical and a change in customer preferences.

  • Logistical challenges in times like this were bound to happen, but just thinking about the number of cakes that I almost thought won’t be delivered in one piece makes me shudder. However, third party services are stepping up their game and with a few minor changes in my packaging and advancements with delivery logistics, we’ve been able to handle most of these concerns.
  • The bigger shift for me was the change in customer preferences. Parties were now smaller, birthdays were not as grand and people wanted to order everything on the menu, but smaller. For a brand that only does big cheesecakes and abstract cakes, this was a challenge. After months of trial, we officially launched petite cheesecakes. These addressed all the preferential changes that our customers were looking for. Currently, we send out more petite cheesecakes than any other cake.

If there’s one bake that best describes your journey, what would it be and why?

It would have to be a Burnt Basque Cheesecake. I had to put in the hours and things didn’t always look good, but it’s just like the inside of a burnt basque right now– smooth.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Makeup! I am a makeup artist and I feel like one passion drives the other. A lot of my planning with my abstract cakes takes learnings from my time as a makeup artist – colour theory, textures, everything!

If you could binge on one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A classic NY Style Cheesecake or a Traditional Tiramisu!

If the Mad Batter were to host a ‘Mad Tea Party’ (once this pandemic is in the past, of course!) what would be on the menu and who would be invited?

We’ll have a large spread of our Petites (all 14 flavours, so there’s something for everyone) and definitely some Banana Bread and Cinnamon Streusel! I’d like to have my first ‘Mad Tea Party’ with my loyal customers. For someone to trust me for their special occasions has always been an honour to me. For the second party, I’d call my friends and family from across the globe so they can finally taste what they’ve had to hear about for years.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why?

I like to find accounts that truly inspire me to work on my technique and think differently. I also love following accounts that teach me a thing or two about business and how to do it right.

Since people are in lockdown now, could you share one easy-to-bake recipe for everyone to try at home?

The easiest recipe for a quick cheesecake – no crust, intentionally burnt.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram – to see what’s on the menu, enquire and also find out what we’re up to in the kitchen daily.

Whatsapp to place orders or book a consultation for our abstract cakes.

Confessions of a Mompreneur

Raising kids, much like running a company, is all about finding creative solutions. And who better to demonstrate this than our in-house boss mom, Aditi Mokashi? Read on to find out how she manages to bring her A game to all her commitments, be it at work or at home.

Tell us about your journey— what inspired you to start your own business? 

I have always admired people who have successfully built brands and been able to sustain them over time. I loved the idea of being able to build and create a brand by myself. This itch of starting something of my own along with my love for food, led to me starting a small eatery called Eatout At Wadala, along with my two brothers. We had had a lot of fun setting it up, it was the most I had ever enjoyed while being at work. 

After trying my hand at the food business, I returned to a job for almost 3 years. The business bug was still very much alive, but this time I wanted to be very sure about what it needs to be. I had to ask myself the right questions before I committed to anything. While evaluating various options, I realised that I had enjoyed the creative branding and marketing aspect of setting up my business more than anything. I also wanted to put my 8 years of advertising experience and creative skills to use. I had also just become a mother, and I wanted the freedom to work on my own terms. Thankfully, at the very same time, Mitali was having similar thoughts and wanted flexibility when it came to working. One day, over a cup of coffee, while discussing probable possibilities of various things Mitali and I could do as a business, somewhere Postcard Media was born. 

What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a mompreneur? 

I have a ‘let’s wing it’ sort of an attitude with both work and motherhood. I try to find creative solutions to whatever the two roles throw at me: Client asking for new services? Offer them a solution and figure out how to deliver! Child not eating veggies? Turn it into pasta somehow! 

The process teaches you most things, that’s the exciting part of being a mompreneurthe constant evolution. The challenging part is sticking to your commitments. Once you have promised you cannot back out, you have to deliver. (Fun experiment – Try promising a 4-year-old TV time and then denying it).

What has the experience of working from home during the pandemic been like? (How many times have your Zoom calls been video bombed by your kids?! :p) 

The real challenge of the pandemic has been to get her to sit and do her online classes! It’s heartbreaking to watch these kids being denied school and the outdoors which were such an integral part of their childhood. Apart from that, the pandemic has weirdly worked out for us. I have got to spend a lot of time with my daughter which was not the case when I had to go to work every day. Ruhvi is also a very understanding child, she knows Mumma has her work and is more than accommodating when it comes to giving me my space. There are several times she walks in to see what the whole Zoom fuss is all about, but I do not mind it at all. She sees how boring it is and leaves on her own. 

How do you like to spend your me-time? (If you get any of it at all!)   

Thanks to the solid support system I have at home, me-time is an actual possibility. I love cooking and experimenting with new cuisines in the kitchen. A good power nap really helps me focus on things. I love watching a good show or connecting with friends whenever I get the time. Managing a daily walk or some exercise and finding a perfect podcast to listen to is also something I enjoy. 

I have a ‘let’s wing it’ sort of an attitude with both work and motherhood. I try to find creative solutions to whatever the two roles throw at me.

What are some #MommyProblems that you can most relate to or experience the most? 

I really don’t know what all problems go under the #MommyProblems umbrella. We generally face normal parental problems at home: 

  • How to hide the ice cream or chocolate from the child?
  • What to do when you accidentally swear in front of your child and they catch onto it?
  • How to make a place for the unending kids’ stuff in the house?
  • How to invent a new code language so that the kids don’t understand what you are saying?
  • How to drink your coffee before it goes cold?

If you had to ask your daughter to describe your job, what do you think she’d say? (We’ll ask you about your son in a couple of years!) 

Quoting her verbatim: “I think you write letters to your friends on the laptop and sometimes take photos!” 

If you could give your kids just one piece of advice, what would it be?  

I would tell them to never be afraid of making mistakes and re-starting again. If I wouldn’t have learnt from my mistakes with Eatout and dared to trust myself again, Postcard Media wouldn’t have happened.

I wish the kids came with a how-to manual! I wish I knew that in the end, everything works out.

Which are your favourite kids’ and parenting brands on Social Media? 

There are so many amazing brands on Social Media these days. I try to find brands that help me with keeping the kids busy. Some of them whose products and advice I genuinely use and follow are: 

Amma Today – She is a Montessori teacher with some very organic and simple ideas to create a Montessori conducive environment at home. 

Draw with Rob – A YouTube channel to teach simple drawing to kids 

The Mom’s Co, Shumee toys, Making wildpaper, Tulika booksMasilo – these brands have some really nice products. 

What’s the one thing you wish you knew before becoming a parent? 

I wish the kids came with a how-to manual! I wish I knew that in the end, everything works out. I wish someone told me to not fret and enjoy their littleness. I was a puddle of worry for a long time after Ruhvi was born. So, this time around, with Ayaan, I am consciously making an effort to relax and enjoy the baby phase as well. 

Share a picture of a special/ unforgettable/ unique memory of your kid(s) and tell us the story behind it.

The most precious memory for me will always be when my daughter came to the hospital to meet her new baby brother. Ruhvi was asleep when Ayaan was born and woke up to the news in the morning. She was super excited to visit the hospital the next day. It was very emotional for me to see them meet for the first time and it will always remain as one of my best memories.

In the Spotlight- Virali Parekh

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week we have Virali Parekh, an ace choreographer, dance educator and performing artist. She speaks about the nuances of the art, her experience of working with leading choreographers and reinventing ways to connect with the audience during these challenging times. Read to know her story.

Tell us about your journey; how did you get introduced to dance? 

I think I was born into dancing. It was as natural as taking the first steps as a baby for me, so I can’t truly say how I got introduced to it. However, professional dance training came to me very late at the age of 20. As a child, I trained in Bharatnatyam, but after 10th grade, I was discouraged from dancing entirely. Studies took over and only after graduation did, I find my way into professional training at The Danceworx Performing Arts Company, and later I moved to Broadway Dance Center, New York, for further training. I got back in 2016, and since then I have been a part of the choreography teams for several reality shows, music videos, Bollywood songs, etc. along with setting up an online/offline training module with my team.

How would you describe your venture, Dance With Vira

In 2020, our industry took a massive hit and while we locked ourselves up, I knew something had to be done to lift each other’s spirits. I danced in my little room and wondered if I could somehow connect to people to share this energy with. Online platforms did exactly that for us. “Dance with Vira” is an online program that was aimed to motivate people to keep dancing and training at home. When you visit our website, you’d notice that it says, “Move to nurture yourself.” This was a very specific goal-driven program aimed to help people get themselves up during these tough times, using dance/movement as a medium. Initially, it was very tough for me to help or teach through a screen and not be there to correct the body form or structure of the student, but in time, we adapted, and it has been a blessing for me in every way after that. My team and I have bonded with people across cities and countries and managed to share our smiles and anxiety through screens. It has been a beautiful experience so far. I aim to continue this program in the coming months, making it bigger and better in every way possible. For more information, please visit www.dancewithvira.com 

What inspires you as an artiste? 

Inspiration for me ranges from day to day activities like cooking, cleaning, etc. to travelling and sitting on a beach alone listening to the ocean waves. It can come from a life experience, a pet, a stranger, someone’s artwork, a friend’s success story, but majorly inspiration to move specifically comes from music for me. 

Share a story behind your most memorable performance. 

It’s definitely going to be the Global citizen festival, 2015, held at Central Park, New York City. Backstage was not like any regular show backstage. We were in celebrity tents as we watched people like Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Obama, Usher, Malala, etc. in action on stage and prepping backstage too. It was once in a lifetime kind of a stage for me to perform on as I witnessed more than 20,000 people in front of me and I’ll always cherish that moment of rush and excitement. It was overwhelming to dance to an Indian song and watch the crowd go mad about it there. I’ll truly never forget it and I hope I get to travel and dance more and more.

If you could pursue only one dance form for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? 

Jazz funk for life! It requires the discipline of Jazz training but also has this space to incorporate elements of street styles which makes it super fun, unique and relatable to me.

Who’s the one artiste you can’t wait to collaborate with? 

Ummm…. Beyonce! (always aim high :p)

As a choreographer, what’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

Last year, I got an opportunity to be a part of the choreography teams of one of the leading choreographers of the Bollywood Industry, Vaibhavi Merchant. So far, that has been the most exciting project for me to learn from and work on. It’s a Holi song for an upcoming movie with Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar. The sheer grandeur of the set, the amount of hard work of every member there, 3 continuous shoot days in extreme heat with colours flying all over and more than 600 people in the song, it was truly the most exciting and challenging shoot for me so far. Most of my excitement, of course, comes from the fact that I got to observe how she thinks and works on movement. It opened my mind up back then.

Name the top 3 things on your bucket list. 

Travel to the Maldives before it sinks, lol

Play lead in a HUGE commercial music video at least once in my life

To have my own space for artists to meet, jam and create all kinds of art, music, dance, drama, etc

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why? 

I am not a hardcore follower of one particular account, but for dance, I follow Erica Klein, Jojo Gomez and Rukmini Vijayakumar. They have some brilliant work showcased out there and in some ways, it becomes a learning tool for me.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram handle: @virali_parekh

Or 

www.dancewithvira.com 

[email protected]

The Creators’ Den with Amrita Mahale

Amrita Mahale is the author of the acclaimed novel, Milk Teeth, shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award and longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature and the Tata LitLive! First Book Award in 2019. She was part of the Sangam writing residency 2017-18 and her writing has appeared in a number of renowned publications such as Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Scroll, Himal Southasian and Brown Paper Bag. She currently works at an applied research lab focused on AI for social good.

Read on to find out how this rocket scientist from IIT and Stanford became a fiction writer.

Tell us about your journey – how did an aerospace engineer find her way into literary fiction? 

I have dreamed of writing novels since I was very young. It was always clear to me that no matter what I studied or where I worked, I would work towards being a writer. The path was a zigzag one. After two degrees in aerospace engineering, I pursued a career in strategy & product design in consumer technology companies. Writing literary fiction has little to do with either of those. I started with baby steps, taking a writing class one day a week and working on short stories on weekends. One of those short stories eventually became Milk Teeth. My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there. 

What sparked the thought behind your debut novel, Milk Teeth? What inspired you to write this story? 

Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories. The starting point for the novel was the idea of a prophecy that comes true for the most unexpected reasons: a prophecy that these two childhood friends would grow up and get married, even though one is gay and the other is in love with another man. I was thinking a lot at that point about the kinds of social pressures that compel people to make certain decisions. This evolved into the idea that sometimes prophecies are redundant because people live the same lives over and over again, that their lives are scripted by social pressures more than by fate. And slowly that became a look at middle-class society and what happens when its sense of self-worth is thwarted by modern urban life.

“My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there.”

The city of Mumbai (or Bombay, as we still like to call it!) plays a vivid role in this book. What has been your personal experience with this city? 

I was born in Bombay but spent most of my childhood in Gujarat, till I moved back to the city as a teenager. My entire extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles and aunts, cousins – was in Bombay / Mumbai, so my summer and winter vacations were spent there. And my own family moved every two years, so the sense of continuity in my childhood came from spending all my vacations in the city. It is the place I have always thought of as home, and also the city I know best. I wrote ‘Milk Teeth’ when I was living in Delhi, but a week after the novel was published, I moved back to Mumbai after eleven years away.

The characters in your story are layered, nuanced and wonderfully real. Were they completely fleshed out right at the outset or did they gradually acquire their personalities along the way? 

Writing a good character is a feat of observation and imagination both, and good characters come from a place of deep feeling. There was a rough starting point for what each character’s journey was about, and the rest came along the way. Each of the characters struggles with something that I have also struggled with: Kartik’s self-doubt and professional dissatisfactions, Ira’s anxiety about her lack of cultural capital, Kaiz’s longing to prove that Mumbai is his home. And each of these is linked to the novel’s central theme: finding your place in a changing world while trying to remain true to an idea you have of yourself. The complexity in the characters came slowly, accruing over several drafts.

“Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories.”

As a writer, do you ever experience a block or slowdown in your creative energy? If so, how do you tackle it?   

It happens all the time. Sometimes, the only way to overcome it is to power through it. Set yourself a word target and don’t step away from your writing spot till you have met your goal. The words you write in the beginning will be terrible, but will help you get into the flow. This approach does not work all the time. Brute force will not help if you haven’t worked out what you want to say, or if you are genuinely beginning to realise that what you are working on has major flaws, or if you are anxious because the world is in the middle of a long, savage pandemic. Sometimes all you can do is be kind to yourself and wait for the creative energy to return.

Follow Amrita on Instagram and Twitter.

Read our review of Milk Teeth.     

In the Spotlight- Mansi Shah

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week we have Mansi Shah, a nature lover by heart who chose to make a difference. With her venture GiftGreen, Mansi turned her passion into a career, creating eco-friendly, low waste products to encourage a greener way of living. Read to know her story.

Tell us about yourself— what inspired you to start your own business? 

I am a person who loves being outdoors. Having spent a lot of time in a boarding school, I have stayed amidst nature for some years. While finishing my master’s and then working for a short period of time, I started realising that I can’t just love nature and admire it, I have to do something for it by working on it full time. My mother was a great inspiration. The way she grew plants at home with so much love and would gift them on special occasions to friends and family and live a low-waste lifestyle was what inspired me to do this seriously. That’s when GiftGreen came into action.

What’s the story behind your venture, GiftGreen?

GiftGreen was started to make alternatives for festivals. We don’t realise the damage we do to nature while we enjoy our festivals. We first started with selling plants in terracotta pots with personalised messages on birthdays and anniversaries. I started making soil and seed modaks for Ganpati at home. During Independence day, I worked on plantable paper to make the Indian flag which had a motto “Don’t throw me, Grow me.” We then slowly had a team of 3-4 people making rangolis for Diwali which can be grown into plants. After 4.5 years, we have a range of personal care items, low waste lifestyle items for anyone looking for alternatives.

What role does Social Media play in helping you build your brand and reach your audience? 

Social Media has played an important role. Before making our Instagram and Facebook page, it was only through word of mouth that GiftGreen was known.  But social media helped us reach a wider range of audience and age groups.

What is your favourite eco-friendly product? 

Okay, That’s a tough one! My favourite would be soil and seed modaks as it holds a very sentimental value and works as a great gift. Any eco-friendly item which is reusable (steel straws, cutlery, tote bags, bamboo brushes) and doesn’t harm nature is my favourite. 

Tell us about your most memorable DIY project/workshop.

My first workshop was the most memorable one. It was on the basics of gardening, I thought nobody would attend such a workshop, but I ended up teaching 5 children and a few adults who were so enthusiastic and the youngest participant was only 4 years old.

If your life was a book or a movie, what would it be called? 

Life Lessons from a Plant 😉 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I am usually gardening in my free time. I make sure I learn new things like embroidery, DIY crafts, new recipes, etc. Dying clothes with natural colours is my new free time hobby.

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

1. I wish to grow as many plants and trees as I can, wherever I can.

2. Travel to all the national parks, sanctuaries, and forests.

3. Spend more time with people around the country trying to spread awareness about our environment.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why? 

The zero waste farmer (Manju Kumar) and worm rani (Vaani Murthy) are 2 accounts I really get inspired by.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Email Address: [email protected]