Archives for the month of: August, 2013

I heard from an old friend this week– someone who has been down for a long time. There is no worse feeling then the helplessness of watching a friend go through a rough patch and not being able to help them change things.

We hadn’t talked properly in almost a year, partially because of physical distance, partially because I think they were avoiding old friends with our concerned looks and pointed questions.

But yesterday we skyped and much to my intense relief something had changed,  the mood had lifted. My friend was hopeful again and able to plan for a future they were excited about. We could laugh again, we could joke about things that had made us both sad just a year ago.

They were so happy, still sarcastic, irreverent and a little jaded , but still happy.

And I ❤ that so much, isn’t this what we wish for all the people that we love?

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This time of year I love walking down the hill to catch the bus to work because this is the view along the way….

 

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My family thinks I talk too much but most other people tell me I am a good listener. Considering my line of work, I think that being a good listener is a skill I have had to hone and think about a lot.  Contrary to the idea that listening is a passive activity, I think the best listeners are really engaged and curious.  Good listener ask relevant and genuine questions, they empathize and react.

Recently I got a rather unusual opportunity to publicly demonstrate what a good listeners I can be.

Let me explain.

Every year Bhutan hosts the Mountain Echoes  literary festival which is intended to bring together Indian and Bhutanese literary and cultural figures. This year at the very last minute ( there was a cancellation of some kind) my mother recommended me to help out on a session with an Indian author called Amish Tripathi. Apparently both she and I live under a rock because we hadn’t heard of him or his Trilogy on the Hindu Shiva.  But I was promised a free book, so of course I was quick to agree. So I read the book, a fast-paced, well-plotted  re-imagining of the myth of Shiva.  It was an unexpectedly fun read and I felt there was a lot we could talk about, so far so good.

Now  this was the first literary festival I had ever been to and I wanted to do a  good job , so I did my  research  and much to my absolute horror discovered that the book was a runaway bestseller in India ( nearly 2 million copies in print) and the guy had been interviewed by every big name Indian publication in English– how on earth was I going to say anything new or different or fresh?

I was so nervous but after a reassuring chat with the organizer and meeting Amish the evening before our session, where he was refreshingly relaxed and down to earth ( despite being stopped every five mins for a photo or autograph), I figured I was at least as ready as I could be.

My decision going in was to tell myself: this is not about me. My job is to make the author look good and interesting and talented. I was careful to make all my questions simple and precise.  None of them showed me off.  None of them were designed to catch him off guard.

Long story short  our session went really well. He turned out to be charming, smart, articulate and just a really really engaging person to talk to.

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( Here I am listening, while wearing FAR too much red)

Much to my ( and probably his surprise) I had managed to come up with a question  that was newish for him and that he was excited to answer.  And I think that question worked particularly well because it was my most genuine question. I told him how much I loved the  strong female characters ( doctors, warrior, leaders) in his book and asked if  this was deliberate.  And his response was very much about him getting on a soap box and talking about the need for gender equity in India and beyond. (You can read more about his response here )

Lots of people ( some of them related to me– so maybe they don’t count?) came up afterward to see how well they thought I did , but I have to admit this tweet ( which doesn’t really mention me)  was what made me really happy.

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Barkha Dutt is one the best known Indian TV Journalists, she has several widely watched TV shows where she moderates panels discussing the hottest social and political topics of the day. I can’t even think of an American equivalent for her. She has the reputation for being opinionated, smart and tough.  She asks tough, fearless question.  The fact that she thought one of the questions I asked was a good one… well that I really really ❤