Year-end Wrap-Up: Top 10 lessons I learnt in 2012

Image courtesy: Jamie Oliver

1. I enjoy cooking! Not everyday cooking, but trying out new, interesting recipes that make people’s jaw drop in awe. 😉 This was a year when I tried some great new dishes, and  all of them turned out really well. So well, in fact, that it can serve as an alternate career! From yummy pastas to baked fish and roast chicken, I served it all on the table with elan.

2. I’ve got no head for finances, or rather, for tracking investments. I’ve let things slide too long, though. Next year, I’m going to work on changing that for sure.Continue reading

Year-end Wrap-Up: Top 5 books of 2012

2012 was a stellar year for me in terms of reading and all things book-related. I read over 60 books this year, across a variety of genres. I came across some brilliant writers, and some not so brilliant ones. I was approached by Random House India to participate in their book bloggers program, under which they send me books to read and review. And I joined a cool Twitter book-chat – TSBC.

So, what better way to kick-off this year-end wrap-up than by sharing with you my 10 favorite reads from the year? Without further ado, here they are!Continue reading

The coolest Sunday afternoon hangout: #TSBC

It’s Sunday afternoon. Armed with a cup of coffee, a pen and small notepad, and my iPad, I make my way to the sofa. It’s my favorite spot in the drawing room – perfectly positioned to allow me to soak up the sun in winters and directly in the path of a cross-breeze when I open the doors of the balconies in summers.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

As I flop down on the couch, I fire up the Twitter app on my iPad and search for #TSBC. It is 3:00 pm. For the next one hour, I will be busy tweeting – replying to questions and people; retweeting and favourite-ing tweets that I like; laughing out loud at times; at others, making furious notes in a small notebook. At the end of that hour of Twitter interaction, I will come away with new thoughts and perspectives, as well as a list of interesting books or authors I knew nothing about.

Isn't this book cover a beauty? Shared on the #TSBC chat on book covers by Random House India

Isn’t this book cover a beauty? Shared on the #TSBC chat on book covers by Random House India

See, #TSBC is the Sunday Book Club, a weekly chat that takes place on Twitter every Sunday at 3:00 pm IST where we talk all things, well, books. Topics have ranged from discussing movie adaptations of books, autobiographies, the works of Oscar Wilde, book covers, the Ramayana, banned books, and a fun discussion on what book…And, at the end of every chat, one lucky person stands to win a book*! I won First Day First Show by Anupama Chopra during one of the initial few chats  on books and films. The question was “If your memoir were to be made into a film, what would you name it and who would you cast in it?” And my rather flippant answer was “The girl who tried to climb a mountain and walked down a hill. Starring Julia Roberts as me. :-P” Pretty cool, huh?

Started by three friends and book lovers Raghav, Neo and Sudha, the club is 11 weeks old. And participation (both from India and abroad) has grown by leaps and bounds. This really doesn’t come as a surprise because they have some well-thought-out questions on each topic, leading to healthy discussions among book lovers.

If you love books, this is one chat you wouldn’t want to miss! There are, however, a few Do’s and Don’ts.

  • No self promotion during the chat
  • No rudeness and flaming – please respect everyone’s point of view
  • Do mention which question you are answering (A1, A2 etc)
  • Do tag your tweets with #TSBC or they won’t reach all the Tweeps who are participating

Also, do follow The Sunday Book Club and the three founders and hosts Raghav, Meetneo and Sudha. You can also like their Facebook page.

And you’re set! Simple, ain’t it?

So what are you waiting for? Jump into the discussion every Sunday at 3:00 pm IST. See you then for a scintillating book chat!

* Currently, giveaways are only open to people who have an Indian mailing address.

Harnessing the power of social media

I jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon less than a year ago, and am constantly amazed at how my “community” has expanded. I’ve bonded with fellow bloggers, met people who share the same interests as I do, learnt from some of the most inspirational figures of recent times, and followed breaking stories as they happened – minute-by-minute.

As I used the platform and starting interacted with people, I heard their conversations, learnt more about their lives and supported and cheered with them as they triumphed or grappled with life. So what if a lot of them stay half way around the world, or if I haven’t met any of them and probably never will? The conversations and friendships built are real enough. Which is why if one of them were to tell me about a social cause and ask for my support, I would help out to the best of my ability.

And I wouldn’t be alone, as a whooping 84% of the social media savvy aged 30-49 and 55% of those older than 50 used conversational social media to discuss philanthropy. The Philanthropy 2.0 research project also found that 20% of survey respondents between the ages of 30 and 49 gave more than $5,000 through social media discussions, demonstrating the huge potential for social-media savvy fundraisers.

Twestival Houston

Image by .imelda via Flickr

The funds being raised by leveraging technology are astounding. Twitter users alone donated more than $33 million to the American Red Cross fund for Haitian earthquake victims. Innovative companies like Twestival, which realize the potential of 140 characters and hashtags, are using social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. Of that amount, $15,734.53 was raised in India alone.

2:46 quakebook

Image by taotsu via Flickr

Using the power of hashtags and retweeting, individuals too can make a mark. One recent example is that of @ourmaininabiko. Using an idea that was sparked in the shower, he sent out a tweet calling for eyewitness accounts and personal stories on Twitter. Less than 45 minutes later, the first submission came in. Based on the more than 80 submissions to that single tweet, 2:46 Quakebook was born – a Twitter-sourced collection of personal accounts and pictures of the 11 March 2011 Japan quake and its aftermath. The book is a collaborative effort between bloggers to help raise money for Japan – the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Japan Red Cross.

India recently witnessed its own political revolution of sorts, and a big portion of that battle was fought online – through the creation of a website and by leveraging social media to spread activist Anna Hazare’s message of anti-corruption. Millions of people across the nation joined Hazare in person and in spirit, as he sat on a fast-unto-death outside the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. His demand was for the passage of a Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill) that would give more power to the people to fight corruption in all areas of public service. Candlelight vigils and peaceful protests were organized around the country, forcing the government to accept all of the demands put forth by the activists and backed by the common man, corporates and Bollywood stars.

Social media has truly emerged as one of the most powerful Web 2.0 technologies. Not only does it allow us to forge strong friendships, it enables us to spark ideas that turn into revolutions that lead to the ouster of dictators, bring about social change, and raise money for those in need. Ultimately, how we use and leverage it depends on us.

Have you ever made donations or volunteered your services by leveraging technology?

Technological spirituality: 6 ways to tune into you

Info from the English WP http://en.wikipedia.o...

Image via Wikipedia

Technology has been evolving at a rapid pace. Remember the days of yore, when we used to call the telephone exchange to place STD calls. You had to wait for the telephone company to connect your call, you never knew how soon – or even if – your call would go through. Fast forward a few years, and we had the ability to place STD calls ourselves without having to go through the switch-board. A few more years later and mobile phones emerged, allowing us to make STD and ISD calls on the go. Fast forward to the present, and you have multiple ways to stay in touch – phone, email, internet calls through Skype, Facebook and even Twitter.

This ability to constantly be in touch, in real time, is a boon when your family stays far away. You’re now no more than a phone call, e-mail, status update or tweet away. It’s also become possible to stay connected to the office while on the go. Look around, and you’ll see people in the gym handling office-related phone calls, busy executives sitting in the coffee shop with their laptop updating an important presentation or checking and answering work e-mails.

But in this constant race to be up-to-speed with everyone and everything around us, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to connect with ourselves, with our spirituality, with God. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

The very technology that has connected us to friends and family around the world has also given us myriad tools to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. Here are six ways in which you can tune in to you even when you’re on the go.

YouTube: Most smartphones these days can connect to and play YouTube videos. The next time you’re in the train commuting just log on to YouTube, look for meditation, scroll through the numerous options that come up, plug in your headphones and hit play. You can also visit the Soulful living page here on Modern Gypsy to access a collection of hand-picked meditation music or guided meditation videos and find yourself. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get a new meditation video every Sunday, along with a lot of other interesting content on a variety of topics ranging from book reviews to travel stories to observations on daily life.

Twitter: There are a lot of spiritual gurus and motivational speakers on Twitter who send out inspiring tweets everyday that can give you a nugget of wisdom in 140 characters or less. They also post links to relevant content on their blogs or other sites that you can visit whenever you have a few extra minutes, or favorite and go back to later.

A few people to follow: @paulocoelho, @DalaiLama, @RockSolidAdvice,  @RevRunWisdom. You could also follow my Inspirations list on Twitter.

Mailing lists: There are a lot of websites and blogs that offer spiritual content and insights online. Subscribe to a few of their mailings lists and you’ll have some thought provoking articles to read the next time you’re stuck at the doctor’s office or in a nasty traffic snarl. You can even save them on your smartphone using apps like Instapaper, which allow you to save webpages for offline reading.

god_wants_you_to_knowFacebook: Have you come across the nifty Facebook app called God Wants you to Know? If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out. It gives you a new message from God everyday – daily bite-sized pieces of inspiration that at times are exactly what you need to hear.

Apps: There are a lot of religion and spirituality apps available that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet. You can download The Bhagwad Gita as a book or in audio; Buddha-in-a-Pocket offers powerful insights from the teachings of the Buddha; The Life Purpose App, which provides full access to Dan Millman’s bestseller The Life You Were Born to Live and calculates and provides details about your life path.

Podcasts: There are a lot of meditation podcasts available on iTunes that you can download the next time you’re updating your iPhone/iPad/iPod apps. Spend 10 minutes before you start your day to meditate, or listen to vedic chants while commuting and see the difference it makes to your day. You’ll operate from a more calm, focused and peaceful state of mind, and if you make it a regular practice, you’ll notice that you aren’t as stressed out as you used to be.

I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of the millions of options out there. Are there any tools or apps that you use to connect with yourself?

All aTwitter

Once upon a time, I used to read posts about how technology and social media have made face-to-face interactions passé. Once upon a time, I used to shake my head and say “not me.”

Recently, though, I find that I have a very strong relationship with my phone – so strong, in fact, that when I think the husband is ignoring me, I ignore him back…and forget that he’s there as I get engrossed with one application or another on my iPhone.

And today, I finally bit the bullet and signed up on Twitter! Do I hear you ask why now? Maybe because as I was browsing around the Internet today, I finally woke up to the fact that everyone and their cousin was on Twitter. Maybe I thought it would be nice to finally see why even the most reluctant of people are signing up for the service. Or maybe I thought it would be a cool way to keep in touch with breaking news. I’m not sure what the exact impulse was, but there I am, in all my glory, on Twitter!

Wanna follow me? Just click on the Twitter button on the navigation bar on the side and hear me tweet away!