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Mid-Day Premium Women CEOs guide on how they attain work-life balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tricky in today's fast-paced corporate life. More so for women in leadership roles. The demands of high-stakes careers may often blur the boundaries between professional responsibilities and personal life.   The relentless need to remain responsive and committed to work can sometimes overshadow crucial personal obligations and opportunities for leisure. We spoke with female leaders helming managerial positions in the domain of wellness, beauty, fashion, fitness and food. Women at work delve into the myriad challenges encountered while catering to the demands of a high-pressure role, societal stereotypes and dealing with the guilt of not being there enough. From structured time management techniques to fostering supportive environments within their teams, these CEOs also take us through key attributes women leaders must have to balance work with the joys and responsibilities of family life.  Work-life integration rather than work-life balance- Shilpa Khanna Thakkar, CEO of Chicnutrix At Chicnutrix, Shilpa focuses on women’s wellness by devising nutrition supplements for health stages like PCOs, pregnancy, menopause and motherhood. When asked about her approach to attaining work-life balance, the strategy she revealed went beyond the grain. “For me, it is work-life integration rather than work-life balance. The important aspect is to manage this availability, multitask efficiently and handle numerous jobs at once. Also, fluidity is the key which ensures that I am available for both work and family whenever required,” she tells Midday. The integration of work and personal life, as outlined by Shilpa, is more essential in the current age, reminding us how the two parts are complementary rather than opposites. She adds that more than just allocating time, it is about being accessible for multiple responsibilities at once and managing that availability. Yet there have been challenges in her journey. Work-life integration, rather than balance, undoubtedly presents multiple challenges as one has to stay alert and responsive throughout the day. To cope, Shilpa actively seeks out all available support. “I rely heavily on technology to interact with my support team, which consists of everyone from my maid to my driver. For example, during meetings, I maintain communication over WhatsApp to ensure availability without the need to take calls. Similarly, while spending time with family, I ensure that work can approach me if the need arises. This ensures that any messages received are promptly attended to, even if phone calls cannot be answered.” On the flip side, it has the disadvantage of being always available too! In her opinion, accepting these disadvantages and devising solutions to manage them is critical to strike a balance of both worlds. What works for this CEO is to start her day with foresight: to ensure that personal tasks are met before going to work. Planning this entails organising tasks and determining availability for family obligations while balancing this with being present in the office. “Yes, it’s impossible to strictly follow the plan, but this technique aids in managing the blurred lines between personal and professional life,” sums up Shilpa.  Leave some wiggle room in a hectic schedule- Richa Mishra, VP - Operations, Anytime Fitness Heading a leading health and fitness club in town, Richa opens up about the societal pressures and guilt that often come with the territory. “We're expected to excel in so many areas, that sometimes it becomes exhausting. For a long time, I struggled with this guilt, feeling like I was constantly failing somewhere. But eventually, I realised I had to take control.” She continues, “I assessed what truly mattered most in my life To devise a realistic framework for my time. Being present in the moment is crucial. When I'm at work, I give my full attention to my team and responsibilities. When I'm with family, my focus is completely on them. This allows me to excel in each role without the guilt of neglecting the other.” While a perfect yin-yan might seem elusive, yet, Richa puts it, by prioritising, being present and accepting all sudden situations, a balance is feasible. Regarding her strategy, she tells her hack, “Life can throw urgent situations but I have learned to always leave some wiggle room in my schedule for unexpected situations. This flexibility allows me to handle urgent matters without derailing my entire day. This approach has been a game-changer for me. It has allowed me to be a strong leader at work, a supportive presence at home, and a well-rounded individual overall.  Encourage a company culture that values work-life balance- Natasha Tuli, Co-founder & CEO, Soulflower Everything we do has an impact. To help preserve planet Earth, Natasha Tuli has turned to the farms seeking answers for hair and skin woes. Although her ‘farm to face’ philosophy is timely and essential, establishing it as a woman brings unique challenges. Tuli discusses the backlash she faces from society for juggling her career as a woman. “Being a woman leader, I’m no stranger to stereotypes and assumptions about women's capabilities can hold them back. For example, women might be seen as too emotional, lacking assertiveness or not being a "good fit" for leadership roles. Tuli has to navigate worthless yet prevalent perceptions that find their roots in misogyny. Despite the societal challenges, Tuli finds her purpose in her passion. “I believe if you’re driven towards your goal, you find ways to tackle and overcome each challenge in your way.” Tuli's top six tips for women in leadership. 1.    Personalise your workspace with things that make you feel good.2. Build a strong, capable team and empower them to make decisions and be creative. This frees up time for the CEO to focus on strategic business expansion and marketing initiatives.3. Establish specific working hours and communicate these boundaries to employees and clients. Turn off notifications during personal time and resist the urge to check work emails constantly.4. Treat personal time like important meetings and block it off on your calendar. Schedule regular exercise, time with family and friends and hobbies (I like to paint, this relaxes me).5. Encourage a company culture that values work-life balance. Take breaks, leave the office on time and openly discuss the importance of personal well-being. This sets the tone for employees and helps them prioritise their balance.6. Schedule regular vacations or digital detox periods to disconnect completely and recharge. This can lead to improved decision-making and a renewed perspective upon returning to work.  Prioritise being fully present in each moment- Anushka Khanna, fashion label owner Known for her choicest colours, prints and easy fabrics, this Mumbai-based designer has dressed Bollywood icons like Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt (who was also the face of her campaign), Kareena Kapoor Khan, Deepika Padukone and Jacqueline Fernandez. In a quick chat, she takes us through the demands of motherhood while meeting the demands of a high-stakes career.  Taking back to her days of pregnancy, doctors recommended a pause, citing concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic that was spreading at the time. “Later, when my son was born, I decided to extend that pause a little longer. I was enjoying my time with him at home, quite frankly but also because I wanted to reinvent where I was coming from creatively.”  Upon returning to the studio, she found herself filled with renewed vigour. Motherhood had given her a profound sense of what she would like to design with the most sustainable model. “As both a creative head and business owner, my mind is constantly engaged. To make the most of it, I prioritise being fully present in each moment.”  Along with motherhood, she became cognizant of the fact that smooth operations aren't always guaranteed. Balancing my flexible schedule allows me autonomy, yet often extends my day. It's crucial to carve out personal time—whether for a quiet tea, a workout or catching up with friends—to maintain balance and avoid burnout.  My approach is straightforward: maximise productivity both in the studio and at home, while acknowledging that some days spontaneity reigns supreme. Embracing this dynamic helps foster innovation and adaptability in both my personal and professional life.  Success can co-exist with a healthy & fulfilling life- Queenie Singh - Founder and CEO of Beauty by BiE As a woman in a leadership position, one of the significant challenges for Queenie has been managing the expectations and pressures from both the business world and family life. “There is an inherent need to excel in both areas, which can sometimes be overwhelming. Overcoming this challenge required a shift in perspective. I realised that it's not about achieving perfection but rather about making the most of the time I have,” Queenie tells Midday.  When asked about must-have attributes for a leader, she outlines that being approachable, strong and empowering helps set a positive example for her team as well as her children. “I want them to know that success can co-exist with a healthy and fulfilling life.”  Balancing work and a family of three can be challenging, especially with the demands of entrepreneurship. “When work calls for urgency, I manage it while ensuring quality time with my loved ones remains constant. Routine and discipline play pivotal roles—they provide the framework for balancing responsibilities without compromising on either front. Being consistent and persistent in my commitments has been key,” she adds.   Building a reliable team to delegate tasks to is important- Shalini Rattan, Co-Founder of Affogato The brain behind Khar’s quaint coffee and gelato cafe shares with us what she has to face as a woman entrepreneur. “Time management has been my biggest hurdle. Balancing meetings, gelato production, innovating new flavours and managing domestic tasks is demanding. Additionally, society still expects women to handle household chores along with their careers. A new business is like having a baby; it requires time, focus and energy for long-term success”.  Here are a few strategies Shalini has deployed to balance work and personal life:  Setting clear boundaries: It’s crucial to designate specific work hours, family time, and moments to unwind. Many people neglect 'me' time, but running your own business can be physically and mentally exhausting. Spending time with friends or pursuing a hobby is essential for rejuvenation.  Creating a prioritised task list: Keeping your focus and energy on track requires a comprehensive priority list that includes both work and personal tasks.  Exercise: Allocating time for physical activity is vital for maintaining overall well-being.  Delegation: Building a reliable team to delegate tasks to is important. Supervision is necessary, but attempting to handle everything alone is not.  Continuous learning: Stay updated with industry trends and new techniques to maintain a competitive edge in your field.   A purpose in life induces a happy state of mind- Hansaji Yogendra, Director, The Yoga Institute, Yoga Guru & Author  In the realm of yoga, which has long been dominated by men, people traditionally visualise a yogi as someone with a long beard and saffron robes. When Hansaji, as a woman, presents herself, there is often initial skepticism about her authenticity and dedication to yoga.  “However, as soon as I begin to speak, people come to understand that yoga transcends gender. The ancient texts and scriptures of yoga teach us that no individual is entirely male or female; we are all composed of a blend of both masculine and feminine energies. When it comes to spirituality, the distinctions between man and woman dissolve, leaving only the unity of body, mind and soul,” she elaborates on the agency she received from yoga.  She opines that an organised, disciplined and planned life is important. “In this way, one’s whole life becomes a yoga sadhana. As far as consistency is concerned, it stems from one's personality. Once you have a purpose goal in life, you will approach tasks with a happy state of mind. This balance and positivity ensure that you never tackle stress diligently in the face of a demanding day.” 

18 July,2024 11:57 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Image for representational purposes only (Photo Courtesy: iStock)

77 per cent Indian startups investing in technologies like AI

More than 77 per cent of Indian startups now invest in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), internet of things (IoT) and blockchain, a report showed on Thursday. The trend underscores the rapid technological adoption and innovation across the Indian startup ecosystem, now ranked third globally, following the US and China, according to the report by SAP India, in collaboration with Dun & Bradstreet. Another significant finding is the emergence of tier 2 and 3 cities as innovation hubs, where 40 per cent of tech startups originate, leveraging local talent and cost advantages. Cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur, Madurai, Indore, Kochi, Warangal, Hubli, Raipur, Visakhapatnam and Guwahati, among others, host 15 per cent of the country's tech skill pool. Also Read: Art through the eyes of AI: Here’s how artists and creative professionals are adopting AI in their work This tech-driven evolution solidifies India's global stature as a leading startup powerhouse, supported by robust corporate governance and a conducive regulatory environment, the report noted. “As companies shift their focus from GMV (gross merchandise value) to GM (gross margin) and seek to forge more sustainable business models with the help of transparent, trusted financial data, technology remains a cornerstone and a key differentiator for startups to achieve these business goals,” said Sanket Deodhar, VP and Head of Digital Natives, SAP Indian Subcontinent. Around 79 per cent of start-ups believe that adopting enterprise applications integrated with new-age technologies such as AI is essential for scaling and improving unit economics. Nearly 72 per cent of startups surveyed said that they already have or are looking to invest in new-age technologies. About 85 per cent of startups believe unit economics is a clear path to profitability and enhancing valuation, the report mentioned. “India's startup ecosystem is thriving, fueled by a favourable regulatory environment, a growing middle class, and a tech-savvy youth population. With almost 3 lakh startups and 113 unicorns across diverse sectors, India ranks third globally in its startup ecosystem,” said Avinash Gupta, Managing Director and CEO–India, Dun & Bradstreet. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

18 July,2024 11:25 AM IST | Mumbai | IANS
From L-R, Top row: abstract work by Damodar Aware, Bavarian castle by Sushma Mahajan, Puvar Ben. Bottom row: Gossip by Annamicka Kuchhan and Archival sketch by Thomas Daniell

Immerse yourself in 4 curated art shows across Indian metro cities

Bengaluru: Mosaic of Modernity Diving into the diversity of art, Gallery G, in collaboration with the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation, presents a unique exhibition showcasing the works of eight talented artists from across India. The show promises to be a visual feast with each artist bringing their distinct genre and medium to the gallery. The art show offers a thoughtful curation featuring Jai Khanna's mythological narratives, Dinesh Magar's daring compositions, Aarohi Singh's folk-art musings, and Damodar Aware's contemplative genres. Alongside, Tushar Shinde's vibrant colors, Runa Biswas' themes of identity and memory, Annamicka Kucchan's subtle hues and Tridib Bera's deep dive into human emotions promise a memorable visual experience that will resonate with the audience long after the curtains fall. Time: 10am to 6pm When: July 15 to August 15, Where: Gallery G (Atrium, Main & Mezzanine Level)   Hyderabad: Affordable Indian Art Show Affordable Art India is poised to make its debut in Hyderabad. Founded by Srila Chatterjee, the show is revolutionising the Indian art landscape by making original artworks accessible and affordable for all. The inaugural exhibition showcases a diverse range of contemporary and traditional Indian art forms, including Ajrakh, Bengal Pattachitra, Bhil, Batik and Gond. Noteworthy artists like Zainab Tambawala will unveil a stunning collection of watercolour artworks capturing the essence of Hyderabad. Additionally, the Leh-based Ladakh Art Palace will showcase authentic Tibetan Buddhist paintings, known as Thangka, and Dolon Kudu's exquisite clay pieces, earning her the title "pinch potter," will also be on display. This platform bridges the gap between art enthusiasts and emerging artists, offering a unique opportunity to own authentic pieces at affordable prices, starting from Rs. 1200. Time: 11am to 7pm When: August 2, 3 and 4Where: 2nd floor, Crafts Council of Telangana, Banjara HillsEntry: Rs. 2000   Mumbai: Escape from Reality Inviting introspection, Bhavya Ramakrishnan’s painting exhibition in Worli prompts the viewer to reflect on ideas of conscious and unconscious living. The show will present 10 artworks narrating a mental health journey, which was arrived at by the artist, after years of psychiatric therapy. The network that forms the basis of expansion in each of the paintings is a conscious and personal design of the artist. Ramakrishnan has also created a special section for children, called the Children’s Corner which is an experiment close to the artist’s heart initiated from her interest in child rights. “The idea is to introduce art that children can enjoy like we do as adults. An early appreciation that holds them in good stead as they mature in their interests is what is hoped for the younger audience. It is not meant to be instructional but does apply the golden rules of design, colour shades and composition i.e. basic guidelines of aesthetics,” she tells Midday. Time: 11am to 7pmWhen: July 31 to August 5Where: Nehru Centre Art Gallery, Worli   Delhi: This Beautiful World Solo exhibition "This Beautiful World" by Dr Sushma Mahajani is set to feature 35 exquisite watercolour paintings depicting the beauty in the stillness of our surroundings. Highlights include 10-12 artworks based on the enchanting aspects of flora and fauna, such as the innocence of a rabbit, the charm of horses and the ferocity of a wild cat. The collection also includes serene autumn landscapes and vibrant floral compositions. It also features European and Cuban architectural influences, including scenes of Bavarian castles, London pubs, the Adriatic coast and Cuban streets. Following the success of her previous exhibit, "Curious Charms, The Magic of Aquarelle" showcased last year, Mahajan has teamed up with art historian and curator Dr. Alka Pande for this exhibition. Pande notes, "The essence of Sushma's artistic expression is to excavate beauty from the darkest moments of life." Time: 11am to 7pm When: August 2 to August 5Where: Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre - Lodhi RoadEntry: Free Art auction in Mumbai: Passages to India Mumbai’s upcoming auction of rare books, prints, maps, photographs and letters brings together 93 carefully curated lots that explore India’s rich history and culture, primarily during colonial rule and the freedom struggle. Items up for auction include vintage prints that offer insight into 18th- and 19th-century India which contribute to the documentation of the country’s freedom struggles. For instance, patrons will find: Les Hindous: Ou Description de Leurs Moeurs, Coutumes et Ceremonies by François Balthazar Solvyns (lot 93; Estimate: Rs 34 - 40 lakhs) is a four-volume compilation of coloured etched plates offering detailed visuals of Indian society and culture in the 1790s. First-edition translation of the Bhagavad Gita, The Bhagvat-Geeta, or Dialogues of Kreeshna and Arjoon; in Eighteen Lectures; with Notes by Charles Wilkins (lot 1; Estimate: Rs 5 – 6 lakhs); the first edition of the Constitution of India from 1950 (lot 91; Estimate: Rs 18 – 20 lakhs) The auction will go live on Saffronart website on 24 – 25 July 2024. However, auction lots will be available for viewing in person at Saffronart’s Mumbai gallery from 19 – 25 July. When: July 19 to 25Where: Ground Floor, Industry Manor, Prabhadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400025  

17 July,2024 11:27 PM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Image for representational purposes only (Photo Courtesy: iStock)

Mid-Day Premium Is AI the future of creativity? Artists share experiences & ethical dilemmas

Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) has become quite the buzzword since last year with AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney taking over our laptop screens. The technology has expanded its roots to establish a strong foothold across different industries.  While the use of AI in technical avenues has been largely accepted, its application in the creative industry has often been met with resistance and debates. In a field where human intelligence, imagination and emotion takes precedence, it’s only natural for people to be vary of technological imposition. Despite this concern, artists and creative professionals haven’t remained untouched from the possibilities and impact of using AI tools in their work.  From AI-generated images and writing to AI artwork and music videos, this technology has come to occupy a significant place in the art world. Use of AI tools has become common in creative workplaces. This raises the question – is AI the future of art and creativity? Or rather, should AI be the future of art and creativity, given its ethical and legal implications? speaks to artists, creative professionals and a lawyer to find out.  AI and digital art  Many artists believe that AI sparks creative interests and produces innovative results.  Manojna Yeluri, an artist rights, entertainment and IPR lawyer and founder of Artistik License, observes, “We're seeing artists and creative professionals employing AI to enhance their creative process. Some artists who are leaning on AI to help create art that is immersive and interactive. There are others who are using AI tools to imagine the future through art forms such as Futurisms.”  Mumbai-based artist and filmmaker Varun Gupta, who is renowned for his AI-generated artwork, is one such person. He reveals, “My journey with AI art started back in November 2023. I noticed Pratik Arora’s work, which inspired me and also ignited curiosity. I just wanted to try something new, build something different. That’s when I came up with the Cyborgbay series where cyborgs and robots live in Mumbai in the 90s.”  “Then I started experimenting with Midjourney. First, I only worked with prompts, but then began integrating other softwares like Photoshop,” he adds.  Arist Varun Gupta (L); AI artwork 'Akashganga' by Gupta with Banaras as the backdrop (R) Jenny Bhatt, a Mumbai-based pop artist, also employs AI tools in her art. “I use visual AI tools to experiment with visuals for my art. ChatGPT has also helped me curate art courses,” she reveals.  Sharing her opinion on the scope of AI in art, she says, “AI is mainly used by digital artists, which includes illustrators, animators and fine artists. Technology has expanded the horizon of this field and added more scope.”  Artist Jenny Bhatt (L); Abstract Ganesha artwork created by her using AI (R) AI and creative jobs  Spending hours brainstorming creative ideas and racking one’s brain to come up with content and designs were some common occurrences in the creative workplaces of the past. While these still exist to an extent, AI has largely transformed creative roles and introduced systems to make work easier.  “We’ve just brought in some AI tools to help out in different areas like writing, designing, and even coding. It’s all about getting things done more efficiently. We've also got prompt engineers on board now who are great at showing everyone the ropes,” reveals Kajol Bheda, founder of Mumbai-based creative agency Scribbld Social.  “At first, everyone in creative roles was a bit wary, thinking AI might take over. But it didn’t take long for them to see how much it actually speeds things up and helps out. Now, they're all for it,” she adds.  These practices are being adopted in most creative fields like fashion, architecture, marketing, etc.  Also read: How AI algorithms inform box office trends, film production and talent casting AI and music  “Diving into the world of artificial intelligence opened new possibilities for me. It allowed me to visualise situations, narrate stories and articulate ideas in ways that felt cinematic, which was previously challenging,” says Kolkata-based indie music artist Siddhant Goenka.  Goenka has been incorporating AI elements in his music videos since 2023. His third song ‘Pari’ became India’s first AI-generated music video in December last year.  “No one else was leveraging AI in this space, and I saw an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. As an indie artist, I aspired not only to be recognised for my music but also for pioneering innovative approaches,” he explains, adding, “As I delved deeper into developing characters and stories, I became increasingly engaged. I realised that beyond being a musician, I could also take on the roles of director and scriptwriter, thus pushing the boundaries of my capabilities. The ability to imagine anything—from medieval war stories to majestic characters—was empowering. It allowed me to achieve feats previously hindered by technological limitations.”  Indie music artist Siddhant Goenka (L); A still from India's first AI-generated music video 'Pari' (R) Reflecting further on how AI has facilitated fulfilment of his creative vision, he says, “This journey has significantly enhanced my storytelling abilities, ensuring that my songs are perfectly synchronised with their accompanying videos, creating a holistic experience for the audience. My mantra has always been to offer a complete cinematic experience within the span of a three-minute song.”  Music artists are increasingly employing AI to create specific tunes and include specific voices in their creations. “AI tools are also being used in the music industry to generate sounds and voices that resonate with specific styles or even bring back certain nostalgic sounds,” notices Yeluri.  Earlier this year, music maven AR Rahman had used AI to recreate voices of late singers Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed for a song in the movie Lal Salaam. He later revealed that permission was sought from their family and they were remunerated.  However, the music industry and fans alike remain divided on the ethical implications of the same.  Navigating ethical dilemmas and legal implications  According to some people, Gen AI poses several ethical challenges such as using someone else’s work, lack of authenticity, threat to privacy, etc.  When Gupta first started experimenting with AI, he faced an ethical dilemma. “In the beginning, I used to doubt whether this process was ethical or if I was stealing someone’s work. As I started working on it, I realised AI is just a tool. I am creating something with my idea and putting in prompts, based on which AI is giving me a result. After that, I still work on that and add my own touch to it,” he says.  “We insert data into AI – this is an apple, this is a car, etc. Now, AI will take inspiration from these existing objects or images. Even otherwise, any creative work that we do is inspired by something. It’s a copy of a copy of a copy. It’s the same with AI,” he explains further.  Bheda agrees. “AI makes the creative folks even more creative. After all, most art is inspired by something else, right? So, I see AI as a tool that just keeps adding to that inspiration, not taking away from it,” she says.  “To be honest, ethical dilemmas exist for almost every kind of technology,” Gupta comments.  This belief finds a supporter in Goenka. He says, “When we talk about AI being a threat, I’m reminded of the time when computers first came on the scene. They seemed like a threat too, but ultimately, they boosted our productivity and efficiency. I see AI in the same light. It’s not a threat to authenticity. The output from AI depends entirely on the artist's input, and precise prompting is key to getting the desired results.”  “When used correctly, AI can save a lot of time and make creative work more efficient. AI opens up new possibilities for artists, like creating full-blown music videos, artwork, teasers that were previously out of reach,” he adds.  Goenka believes that our thoughts drive AI, and it can’t replace human creativity and imagination. It is here to complement, not replace, creative endeavours.  “Some music producers are even using AI to generate the voices of late, great musicians, paying homage to their talent,” he states.  However, several musicians have expressed concerns over misuse of their voices using AI, with some of them even seeking legal protection. Is that possible? We ask Yeluri.  “Yes and no. There's still a lot of grey areas when it comes to originality and ownership of such content. However, musicians can claim protection through the enforcement of their personality rights that extends to protection of their likeness, sound, etc. It is also arguable that they can claim protection through their moral rights, however, again, this is a grey area,” she answers.  Lawyer Manojna Yeluri (L); Kajol Bheda (R) Elaborating further ownership of AI-generated work, she says, “At this stage, there's still no absolute consensus on being able to own the rights in an AI generated work because we can't fully quantify the degree of human contribution to the creative work and also non-human ownership is not recognized by the law.”  Due to this, the scope and implication of copyright infringement in AI-generated work also remains without clear answers.  AI also poses other ethical concerns.  “Privacy is a major concern. Another big concern is the dehumanising of creativity and lived experiences. By using AI, are we normalising adopting a synthetic lens to the way we create and express ourselves? This is particularly true in the context of AI-generated activism art like the recent "All Eyes on Rafah" image that went viral. Though incredibly powerful and impactful, many have also questioned whether the AI-generated artwork may have dehumanised the lived experience of those in Rafah. Additionally, there is the environmental cost of AI also. So, all this comes together as a question of how we can be sustainable and authentic in our engagement with AI,” expresses Yeluri.  Bhatt also advocates for responsible use of AI. “Gen AI technology is also being misused for plagiarism. Midjourney has been trained using styles of different artists without paying any licensing fee to them. Anybody who uses Midjourney can use these artists’ style. Because of this, many artists are also suing AI companies,” she says, adding, “This amounts to unfair and unethical use of AI. These artists put in years of hard work and AI just takes it and gives it away.”  “There’s currently a movement on ethical use of AI. One should use tools that don’t breach others’ copyright. There are tools that aren’t trained using specific artists’ work but general art styles like anime, impressionist, etc. Adobe stated that they trained their AI on licensed stock images. Whether they pay or not for these images is a different story,” she further states.  Despite Adobe Firefly’s stated attempt to be a more ethical and safer AI option, questions were raised on its claims and datasets used to train the model.  Since Gen AI is an evolving field, mapping it’s ethical and legal course is full of challenges.  Is AI the future of art and creativity? Given its growing prevalence, it becomes important to evaluate the way forward when it comes to the use of AI in artistic and creative work.  “Earlier, a high budget and a lot of other resources were required to produce anything. With AI, it has become easier. There’s more scope to experiment. I believe AI is the way to go. It’s the future of creativity. In fact, it is a catalyst to creativity. It gives people power to visualise and create anything they like. My thought process has also developed through AI. I used to have very simple ideas. But now I think on more surreal, experimental lines because I know I can pull that off using AI,” believes Gupta.  However, artists also believe that AI will not replace humans in creative fields. It is here to co-exist, not take over.  “While AI tools can facilitate creativity, helping artists bring their visions to life, they can't replace the magic of human imagination. It's the artist's unique experiences, emotions, and meticulous inputs that make the creative process truly special. I am just excited to embrace the collaboration between humans and AI, and watch the creative possibilities soar,” says Goenka.  “We live in a time when everything can coexist – hand painted, digital, AI-generated art, and that is what’s happening and will happen,” concludes Bhatt.

17 July,2024 11:55 AM IST | Mumbai | Raaina Jain
Representational Image. Pic Courtesy/iStock

Mid-Day Premium 'Reggae music is niche in India; people still associate it with Bob Marley'

Warren Leitao listens to many different genres of music but reggae music evokes a different kind of feeling for him. He shares, "Reggae music makes me happy because it has a very positive and uplifting lyrics and a nice easy vibe. It helps my soul when it's down." Leitao has fond memories of one of his earliest introductions to the genre, which he took to after listening to 'Buffalo Soldier'. "My dad had a CD of Bob Marley. He would listen to it every Sunday afternoon with his glass of whisky," he adds.  Every year, July 1 is recognised as International Reggae Day around the world to celebrate reggae music and culture. Interestingly, it was popularised by Bob Marley around the world but has since then seen many other bands play and sing the music not only from Jamaica but around the world. It has even reached Mumbai and India at large, as several bands play the music along with other genres.  Reggae music in India While Reggae Rajahs were one of the first in recent times to pursue the genre since they formed in 2009, there have been several others that have dropped up in Mumbai and The Fanculos is one of them. Started by Ramon Ibrahim, the five-piece band plays a variety of genres but most importantly ska music, along with reggae and more. For Mumbai-based Ibrahim, who was born in the UK, this has a personal connection. "I have been into reggae for many years since my father is from Guyana in the Carribean. So, I have been listening to a lot of reggae music since I was a kid."  However, the Mumbai musician says he has been mainly listening to ska. "Ska is actually the pre-cursor to reggae," he informs, continuing, "It was the music that was born in the 1950s. When I came to Mumbai in 2010, I wanted to start a ska band because it is good fun music. I thought people would sort of like it because it is good party music, and good for festivals." It led him to start the band in 2012, and Ibrahim has never looked back since then, after the current line-up came together in 2016.  Unfortunately, the Mumbaikar believes its popularity in India and even in Mumbai hasn't been as rich as the music. He explains, "You may not want to hear this but it hasn't really caught," When I started The Fanculos, which is a ska band and not a reggae band, I thought it would catch on but it did not. It was really big in England, when I was there. In fact, it is currently undergoing a resurgence in the world right now." The musician even cites the new show 'This Town' from the makers of Peaky Blinders, which traces the popularity of Ska music in the country in Coventry to rhe 1970s and the 80s, considered the early days of the British wave of Ska.  In India, Ibrahim believes the lack of popularity has been due to how English music, he believes has been a minority in India. "If you look at English music, it is a minority in India. Most people in India listen to music in Indian languages and anything other than that including English music is niche. Even when they do listen to English music, it is pop music." So, the Mumbaikar says, when you do look at Ska or Reggae music in India, it is a niche within a niche.  Even as The Fanculos continue to play a mix of ska and reggae music, he says the genre has made slow progress in this time, as there are only a handful of bands in the country right now playing music from the genre - either ska or reggae. Apart from the Reggae Rajahs and The Bombay Bassment, Ibrahim highlights Dewdrops from northeast India, which he believes is probably the only pure reggae band, he has heard in India. The Ska Vengers is another Indian band, which is probably the only other known ska band, according to him, but hasn't heard of them in recent times.  With independent music careers, the Fanculos come together to jam and practice every time they have to perform on stage. Luckily, he says venues like antiSocial and Bonobo, in Mumbai have been promoting and championing local music a lot more but being a business, it is only when there are more ska or reggae music listeners can the genre get more popular.  Will reggae go beyond Bob Marley? Beyond getting popular, Ruell Barrett, member of The Bombay Bassment, which plays a variety of genres including reggae, affirms our observation about the genre suffering due to a classic stereotype. He shares, "Most people associate reggae music with Bob Marley. A few of them would know UB40, which is the extent of it, apart from songs like 'Mysterious Girl' by Peter Andre, 'Coco Jumbo' by 9Tendo and Mr. President." However, he says when it comes to reggae music, nobody knows other artists, he says, like the next generation of the Marleys, or the latest songs coming out of the genre in Jamaica or in the UK. This, he believes is because they are not mainstream or played on the radio, as much as other genres including electronic music. "In our country, you have to follow a genre, especially like reggae, to know more," he adds. However, Barrett believes there has been some kind of growth for reggae music in India in the last five years with Goa Sunsplash, being one of India's only and probably biggest reggae festivals, which happens in Goa, once a year. The festival not only gets Indian musicians but also international acts, thus expanding the awareness of the genre in the country. In the years, the city-band has been active, Barrett says, "A lot of people associate Bombay Bassment with reggae music, even though we cover other genres like hip-hop, dance hall and soca too." However, he agrees with Ibrahim to say that reggae is still a niche genre in India that still gets associated with Marley. "Hopefully more people will follow the genre but for that there needs to be more coverage, people need to listen to the songs and like the songs too."  Leitao has been one of those who may have grown up with Marley's music but has since listened to others like UB40 while tracking the occassional reggae song too.  Interestingly, The Bombay Bassment started out only as a two member drum and bass project in 2010 with Barretto on bass, and drummer Levin Mendes on drums - both of whom were part of an earlier band, Aftertaste, that disbanded. Today, apart from Barretto, the band includes producer and disco jockey Chandrashekhar Kunder, popularly known as DJ Major C and Kenyan rapper Bob Omelu, popularly known as MC Bobkat. Bringing in a wide range of sounds, they are constantly experimenting with their music. In 2016, they also achieved the feat of being the first hip hop act to play at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival.  Over the years, the band has been busy creating different kinds of music and has even released an EP 'Ok, Dance' in 2017, along with four singles after that including 'Bam Bam' - One Love and Reggae Over India, among others.  Even as Leitao picks Three Little Birds by Bob Marley as his favourite song today, there is Karan Pillai, a former music journalist, in another part of India in Chennai, who has explored a part of the internet. Beyond Marley's music, which he was introduced to during his school days, he has discovered a reggae music that most people may not know. "Reggae represents the high-spirited and soulful nature of its origin country, Jamaica. It has a smooth vibe to it that is very refreshing from other genres. The fact that there is a small corner of YouTube where people upload reggae versions of non-reggae songs prove its unique appeal," he concludes. 

17 July,2024 10:43 AM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
Gauri Khan: ‘All my projects are unique and special to me.’ File pic

Mid-Day Premium Gauri Khan's top monsoon hacks, new design project with Manish Malhotra

In the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, where towers kiss the sky and bridges transcend oceans, we found ourselves at Andheri’s newest immersive centre where the renowned Indian designers Gauri Khan and Manish Malhotra have teamed up to take us through the design intricacies.  Joining forces with Bonito Designs, the duo has curated a limited collection of home interior themes guided by a refreshing ‘glo-cal’ concept. Merging global influences with vernacular aesthetics, Gauri has combined her cultural prowess with Manish’s pragmatism to birth 9 signature designs that transcend borders. “Elements from the lively corners of Berlin, Cairo, Miami, Jaipur, among other cities find a reflection in the designs,” narrates Gauri as she tells Midday, how her focus is on integrating global influences into her residential projects. “I aim to blend international design elements with local sensibilities to create spaces that echo a sense of warmth and satisfaction.”  As we delve deeper into the immersive space, grey clouds begin to envelop the centre, taking away the slightest speck of natural light. We turn to Gauri whose calm demeanour warranted an inquiry – how can Mumbaikars ensure their homes are ready for monsoon?  Also Read: How Guneet Monga found her footing as an indie filmmake (L-R) Gauri Khan and Manish Malhotra Gauri shares her top five tips to shield home interiors from monsoon woes: Waterproofing: Make sure your home is well-prepared for the rains by waterproofing it thoroughly. Inspect for any leaks or cracks, especially around windows and doors, and seal them properly. Good ventilation is essential to avoid dampness and mold growth, so ensure your home is well-ventilated Moisture-resistant materials: Opt for moisture-resistant materials for your furniture and decor. Treated wood, metal and synthetic fabrics are better suited for high humidity levels. Swap out heavy drapes for lighter, quick-drying curtains that can withstand the damp conditions  Elevated furniture: Protect your furniture from potential water damage by choosing pieces with elevated legs. This helps prevent water that may seep in from damaging the furniture. Additionally, use rugs and carpets made from quick-drying materials that are less likely to develop mold Monsoon-specific decor: Incorporate monsoon-friendly decor such as waterproof cushions and slipcovers for sofas and chairs. Use mildew-resistant paints on your walls to prevent mold growth. Adding indoor plants that thrive in high humidity can also enhance the indoor environment and improve air quality  Lighting and ambiance: The monsoon season often brings gloomy weather, so brighten your home with warm lighting to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Table lamps, floor lamps, and colored LED lights can counteract the dark, rainy days and uplift the mood, making your home a perfect retreat during the monsoon.  Also Read: Sini Shetty: Here’s how this finance pro turned into a Miss World finalistCultivating global ambiance in home spaces Cairo Contemporary Gauri outlines that collaboration with diverse minds has been a key element in overcoming creative blocks in the designs. “Seeking input from fellow designers, architects and clients has led to valuable insights and new directions in my work.”  For Manish, infusing his design prowess with Gauri has been nothing short of holistic. He shares, “My focus lies in pragmatism, functionality and sustainability.” His imprint manifests via the diverse combinations of textures, hues and materials to infuse warmth and vitality into home interiors.”  Reveling us with Gauri’s ethos, he reveals that “her dedication to personalised, human-centric design ensures each environment resonates with users' lifestyles and preferences. “While we integrate global trends, Gauri's cultural acumen infuses the projects with a nuanced fusion of tradition and modernity, honouring local sensibilities,” describes Manish.   Crafting dream homes with a touch of easeBack at the Bonito Design Experiential Centre, Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra, tells us how this establishment is unlike what Mumbai has seen. “We have crafted an immersive environment that allows visitors to intimately engage with the design elements showcased in the residential mock-ups.”  The new experience center targets first-time home buyers where purchase decisions are typically influenced by both partners. It also caters to secondary audiences, including children, women, the designer community, investors, and potential new team members. It showcases 12,000 products in a single space, offering customers a comprehensive and immersive experience. Jaipur haat He elaborates, “With meticulously curated setups, guests will be enabled to visualise various design styles and furniture arrangements in a tangible way. Not only this, visitors will also be able to physically explore these spaces, experiencing firsthand the flow, ambiance and functionality created by each design choice.” Featuring nine sophisticated themes, the mood boards include Jaipur Haat, Hollywood Glam, Hawaiian Tropical, Cairo Contemporary, Berlin Raw Grandeur, London Rustic Village, Miami Contemporary, Milan Maximalist, and Paris Opulence.  The versatility of these thematic rooms seamlessly fuses contemporary and traditional elements, appealing to a wide spectrum of tastes and preferences. Personalised consultation areas provide clients with the opportunity to intimately interact with diverse design elements, empowering them to tailor their spaces to their unique vision and lifestyle.   What sets it apart Offering cutting-edge home design solutions, the center distinguishes itself from others in the industry. “Through interactive displays, homebuyers will get access to practical and aesthetically pleasing design solutions, offering a hands-on experience,” explains Manish, which in his opinion, is not what Mumbai has experienced yet.  While the state-of-the-art facility boasts of high-tech solutions, the designers have been mindful of their carbon footprint. “Sustainability takes center stage with this project. We have utilised reclaimed wood and other sustainable resources to minimise environmental impact. Additionally, energy-efficient lighting and green building techniques have been employed throughout the space, emphasising our commitment to creating an environmentally responsible and sustainable design experience,” explains Manish.  London Rustic By offering a range of tailored experiences, the experiential centre serves as a dynamic hub for learning, networking and collaboration within the design community. It engages a diverse target audience, including homeowners, architects and interior designers. Manish shares how homeowners can benefit from educational workshops and design consultations that help them translate their visions into reality. For architects, Bonito offers seminars and showcases focused on innovative design techniques and sustainable practices, providing valuable insights for their projects. Interior designers enjoy access to networking events and industry collaborations, fostering professional development and creative inspiration.   Gauri’s forecast on emerging real estate trends 1. In the evolving landscape of Indian design, collaboration and community-driven initiatives will play a pivotal role alongside sustainability and technological integration. This not only enriches the design process but also empowers communities and upholds cultural heritage. 2. Recognising the profound impact of our environments on mental and physical well-being, designers will have to upgrade their approach to integrate elements such as biophilic design, natural light and areas for relaxation and rejuvenation. 3. These emerging trends signal an exciting evolution in Indian design, where sustainability, technology, collaboration and wellness converge to create spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also socially responsible and conducive to human flourishing.  Also Read: Ditch meftal-spas: Discover the lesser-known benefits of vaginal steaming for period pain

17 July,2024 10:34 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
The shift in customer preferences for larger units has created a clear opportunity for developers. But how much does it translate for a common man is left to be seen. Pic/iStock

Mid-Day Premium What’s driving the boom in Mumbai's western suburb real estate?

Year after year, Mumbai reigns supreme in India’s real estate market. The first half of 2024 marked a milestone for Mumbai’s real estate, achieving the highest half-yearly sales volume since H1 2012 (with 47,259 units sold), when compared to other metro cities like Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, NCR and Pune, as reported by Knight Frank’s recent study, 'India Real Estate: Residential and Office Market.’ Demand for commercial and residential properties is rising in Mumbai's western suburbs, especially in areas like Andheri, Borivali, Bandra and Peripheral western suburbs. What factors are fueling this surge? Midday spoke with realty experts who take us through the key drivers behind the growing interest in Mumbai’s Western suburbs. Celeb investments in Western suburbs Mumbai's western suburbs rapidly emerge as a goldmine for real estate developers. Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of BKC-based residential group Atmosphere Living, tells Midday how a key driver of this trend is the growing phenomenon of celebrity investments in areas such as Bandra, Lokhandwala and their surrounding areas. “Spacious living is preferred by high-end buyers, with the 2,000–4,000 sq. ft. range drawing the most attention,” he informs. Celebrities are increasingly investing in residential properties, shares Ahuja, as evidenced by Dinesh Vijan's purchase of a 9,000-square-foot house in Bandra for Rs 103 crore and Amitabh Bachchan's acquisition of two apartments in Mumbai's Borivali area for Rs 7 crore. This trend continues, with Alia Bhatt's production business purchasing a 2,497-square-foot flat in Bandra for Rs 38 crore and John Abraham acquiring a 5,000-square-foot villa in Khar for Rs 70 crore. IGR data (Govt. of Maharashtra) accounts for high-profile transactions by film stars such as Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kajol, Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan, who invested a combined total of about Rs 150 crore in commercial properties in the western suburbs in 2023.  Impact on property pricing Dhaval Ajmera, director of Ajmera Realty & Infra India Ltd, corroborates a similar trend he is noticing among film stars. “Amitabh Bachchan's newly acquired office spaces in the Signature Building off Veera Desai Road in Andheri West have shot up the land prices in the surrounding areas. Other notable personalities actively acquiring luxury properties in the western suburbs include Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Rani Mukerji, Alia Bhatt, Disha Patani and Janhvi Kapoor,” he adds. “The influx of Bollywood A-listers into these neighbourhoods has generated a perception of exclusivity, thereby elevating demand for properties. This heightened demand is further amplified by a shortage of new luxury apartments. Ongoing redevelopment projects necessitate the demolition of older buildings, resulting in a temporary lag in the availability of new housing options. Consequently, the market is experiencing an imbalance where the number of buyers outpaces the properties available, driving property prices upwards,” explains Ahuja. He notes that the surge is more pronounced in the luxury market, where sales of flats costing more than Rs 10 crore increased by 8 percent in the first half of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. “The luxury real estate sector in India has seen a huge surge, with sales of houses valued at Rs 50 crore or more increasing by 55 percent in 2023. Ranveer Singh recently sold two properties in Goregaon for Rs 15.25 crore, confirming the celebrity investing trend.” Also read: Gauri Khan's top monsoon hacks, new design project with Manish Malhotra Why are western suburbs attractive? Knight Frank’s report makes two observations: •    This shift towards the West is driven by a combination of factors, including a favourable economic climate, rising disposable income, a growing preference for larger homes and a sense of urgency among buyers to invest in property before prices rise further •    Improved infrastructure and connectivity in western suburbs are increasingly attractive to homebuyers seeking a better quality of life at a lower cost. Ajmera states that the western suburbs of Mumbai are particularly attractive to celebrities and high-profile buyers due to their blend of urban conveniences and scenic coastal surroundings. The region offers excellent connectivity, upscale residential options, top-tier educational institutions and a vibrant social scene, making it a preferred choice for those seeking a luxurious yet accessible lifestyle. Projects like the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) and the upcoming Goregaon Mulund Link Road (GMLR) are set to further enhance accessibility, reducing travel times and bolstering connectivity across the city. The presence of green spaces such as Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Milk Colony adds to its allure, providing a connection with nature amid a bustling metropolis. Moreover, as the Western Suburbs evolve into thriving commercial hubs complementing nearby districts like Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and Lower Parel, they attract not only residents but also commercial investments.  Luxury living in Mumbai: fact or fiction? The shift in customer preferences for larger units has created a clear opportunity for developers. But how much does it translate for a common man is left to be seen? Over-congestion, round-the-year construction and infrastructural strain have made Mumbai a challenging city to reside in. Traffic jams and noise pollution are daily hurdles with basic amenities often falling short of the burgeoning population's needs. Needless to say, the focus is on targeting high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNIs). Ahuja opines that developers need to switch gears on redevelopment projects and produce a new supply of luxury flats offering distinguished amenities and security elements to increase the appeal of these developments. “Strategic positioning is crucial for maximising the potential of these developments. Areas like Worli, which continues to be the most preferred location for luxury buyers, provide a strong foundation for development. Additionally, up-and-coming areas such as Santacruz, Goregaon East, Lokhandavala, Andheri, Malad, Borivali, Kandivali etc here too that are witnessing a surge in luxury property sales, present exciting opportunities,” he adds. By aligning with the celebrity effect, addressing the limited supply and catering to buyer preferences for spacious living in prime locations, developers can unlock the immense potential of Mumbai's western suburbs and establish a strong foothold in this thriving luxury market.  Also read: AI simplifies decision-making in real estate operations, here’s how  

16 July,2024 11:29 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Sunburn goes green by introducing an eco-friendly campaign 'Leave No Trace'. Image courtesy: Sunburn

Sunburn 2024 to make waves in South Goa with under water world theme

Come December, Sunburn Goa 2024’s festival theme will explore the mystical and wondrous depths of the underwater world, merging surreal elements with its famed dance energy. Captivating the beauty of the ocean’s depths, the festival’s visual scheme will bring to life the luminous spectrum of colours and mysterious creatures. Drawing inspiration from this enigmatic realm, Sunburn Goa 2024 will take festival-goers on a fantasy-like utopia of music, dance and culmination of ocean life laced with the exhilarating beats of EDM. Attendees will experience a never-seen-before, 360-degree transformation of the venue into a vivid wonderland, inspired by the organic forms of the seabed, promising discovery at every corner. Highlights of Sunburn Goa 2024 include over 150 international and Indian artists delivering electrifying performances across seven stages. Attendees can also explore pop-up fashion stores showcasing cutting-edge designs that blend everyday wear with surreal underwater-inspired fashion. Indulge in a curated food village featuring a fusion of local and international cuisines. Sunburn’s celebration of culture continues with interactive art installations, immersive experiences and adventure zones, all centred around the captivating underwater theme. Sunburn Goa 2024 will feature the crème de la crème of EDM, top-notch artists from across the globe, hypnotic visuals, cutting-edge audio technology and more. This year's festival will unfold against the idyllic location of South Goa, to address previous pain points such as traffic and parking which music heads had to face at earlier venues. Additionally, Sunburn is reintroducing a campsite at the festival, allowing attendees to camp on the festival grounds and continue enjoying the infectious vibe amidst like-minded people. Giving back to the community of its long-standing home in Goa and instilling environmental responsibility among the youth, Sunburn goes green by introducing an eco-friendly campaign 'Leave No Trace'. By adhering to the principles of ‘Recycle, Reuse and Restore’, the campaign will encourage fans to celebrate the spirit of music in an eco-friendly manner. Recycling stations for plastic, glass and other materials will be strategically placed throughout the venue during and after the festival. Thorough daily clean-ups will be conducted from December 27th to 31st, 2024, to restore the space to its original state. Aiming for 100 percent environmental responsibility, ‘Leave No Trace’ will engage Sunburn's free-spirited youthful fans to make it one of the most eco-friendly festivals in Asia. Note:Registrations for Sunburn Goa 2024 are now live exclusively on bookmyshow. Pre-sale for registered users goes live on July 21, with the public ticket sale beginning on July 24, 2024.

15 July,2024 09:20 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Image for representational purposes only (Photo Courtesy: iStock)

Mid-Day Premium World Youth Skills Day: Does college impart skills for real world? Gen Z answers

Is the higher education system, whose objective is to prepare students academically and professionally for life after college, succeeding in fulfilling its responsibility? Are colleges equipping the youth with the skills and know-how to navigate real-world challenges? Are lectures, assignments, late-night exam preparations and social events helping students develop practical skills?  It’s tough to reach a clear verdict, given the diversity of courses and curriculums that exist. However, there’s a need to bring focus to the current education-employability and academia-industry gap in the country.  Analysing data from 2500 colleges and 440,000 students, India’s Graduate Skill Index 2023 report by the talent assessment company Mercer Mettl found that only 45 per cent of graduates in India are employable. The Global Skills Gaps Measurement and Monitoring Report 2023 by International Labour Organisation states that 46.6 per cent of Indian workers are underqualified for their jobs.  These statistics present a worrisome picture, necessitating discourse around colleges’ capability to prepare the youth for what comes next. Besides job-oriented competencies, the youth also need to be equipped with other necessary skills to navigate day-to-day challenges.  On the occasion of World Youth Skills Day, hears about this conundrum from the horse’s mouth. We speak to the youngsters of the country – the Gen Z – to get answers to the questions posed above.  Did college prepare you for the real world?  “The answer is both yes and no,” says Harshit Agarwal, a 23-year-old Software Engineer working in Bangalore.  “Although the college coursework has provided the foundation of technical skills we need for our job, most of the skills we apply in our daily work are learned on the job itself,” he clarifies.  Some Gen Zers believe that college can’t prepare every student for future challenges since each one sets out on a different path.  Arhya Singh, a final-year Computer Engineering student and intern, says, “I think college hasn’t prepared me for the real world per se. But again, I never expected that in the first place because we all have different experiences when we step out of our academic life and I think there’s no set techniques or methods to prepare you.”  The notion of having subjective experiences after college is backed by Vishvesh Trivedi, a Mumbai-based copywriter. He says, “To be honest, the academics were not that big of a help because having studied BMM (Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia and Mass Communication), I realised that the real-world applications of the subject are diverse and different from the theoretical curriculum. It’s not like MBA that is taught in a very specific manner. It’s very subjective. Professors give you a perspective on it. But when you start working, you see a completely different lifestyle.”  While some believe college prepared them partially for the outside world, others refuse.  “What college teaches you is way different from what actually happens. It is mostly bookish knowledge, with more focus on history than what one can implement in the real world,” feels Mitali Lakhotia, a B.Com graduate and Fashion Communication postgraduate.  Aishwarya Zombade, a 24-year-old psychologist and educator, agrees, saying, “In a lot of courses, practical skills are the most important. However, colleges often tend to just focus on grades and unhelpful assignments.”  But college can’t be all that bad, right?  What skills did you develop in college that have real-world applications?  College life is often characterised by many opportunities and events, apart from academics. These impart soft skills that have real-world applications.  “College did allow me to learn how to communicate and function cohesively with other people. So, in some way, it helped,” feels Singh.  Lakhotia has a similar experience. “One skill that I have learned from college is communication. When you can communicate well, your ideas and thoughts reach more people. During college times, we had to do a lot of presentations and communication was key. You had to put your point forward and navigate through questions and explanations,” she elaborates.  “I was an introvert earlier. How to interact with people is something I have learned in college,” she adds.  The people one meets in college also help in skill-building.  “Through the help of our seniors and taking part in various club activities, we gained experience of working in a team and how to tackle difficult situations which helps us in the real world,” states Agarwal.  “The way you end up making contacts in college, the way you are pushed to build connections, that helps in the real world. I have noticed that I have been able to connect with people and spot growth opportunities due to this. College fests, activities and projects helped me build that skill. There were also times when you had to connect with other people and make use of their skills and your skills to create something. That has been fruitful for me,” reveals Trivedi.  Image for representational purposes only (Photo Courtesy: iStock) Singh also believes that college has enabled her to introspect and grow. “I learned patience and accountability. College basically for me was 4+ years of learning how to be patient with yourself and others around you, and it also taught me how I’m the only one who is responsible for what happens to me. It kind of helped me get over the fact that the world is unfair and some things don’t go according to your perfect life plan,” she says.  What needs to change?  “Most of the skills apart from technical are learned through seniors or various clubs. If college can include these skills in the coursework, it will be much more impactful, because not all students take part in club activities,” Agarwal is quick to respond.  Every Gen Zer we spoke to feels that practical knowledge should be given more importance.  “I’m from a field (computer engineering) where the requirements change almost every day, but the courses in the college are rarely ever updated to accommodate said changes, instead they make us mug up whatever is in the books. Whatever colleges teach is too theoretical and a practical approach would overall be much better,” says Singh.  “I think the intense focus on academics leaves most of us in a position where we know what we’re supposed to do but we can’t because we only know things theoretically. Also, colleges rarely ever teach us how and where to apply what we learned which kind of makes everything pointless,” she adds.  Trivedi also recommends a more practical approach to assignments and projects. “I would recommend colleges to include a lot more collaborative assignments and projects that actually involve interaction with the industry,” he suggests.  “Real-world application-based assignments help understand how the industry works and how much effort you are supposed to put into something. All the theory is important and fine to a certain level, but the practicality is lacking in college curriculums,” he adds.  One skill you wish you learned in college but didn’t  “Managing finances,” comes the recurring answer.  “College should teach about finances – how to manage and grow money,” feels Lakhotia.  While some believe that personal finance should not be taught in colleges because it doesn’t relate to every curriculum, one cannot deny that it is a necessity, irrespective of the course one opts for. When you are preparing for a job, the natural next step is to prepare for managing money that comes from the job.  “Instead of solely focusing on grades and getting first place in class, colleges should start teaching students how to get a job, how to manage finances, how to take care of yourself and your mental health. These are the basics,” says Zombade.  However, she also believes that these life skills should be imparted at the school level. “⁠I strongly believe that whatever you teach someone in school or in college stays with them forever. So, life skills should be taught in schools and reiterated in colleges,” she concludes.  It won’t be fair to put every course and college in the same mould. However, the broader situation calls for action to better facilitate skill-building for the real world in colleges, both academically and beyond academics. 

15 July,2024 11:15 AM IST | Mumbai | Raaina Jain
Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO of Ola cabs

Ola CEO calls for 70 hrs work week, doctor warns of diseases, premature death

After Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal backed Infosys founder Narayana Murthy's 70-hour work-week advice, a top neurologist on Friday warned that it could increase the risk of several serious diseases and even premature death.  Murthy had, in 2023, said that if India wants to compete with developed economies that have made remarkable progress in recent decades, youngsters should work for 70 hours a week. In a recent podcast, Bhavish reignited the debate on the 70-hour work week, saying that he is "fully in sync" with his advice. "Working long hours is associated with increased risk of multiple serious diseases and even premature death," said Sudhir Kumar, from Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, in a post on social media platform Citing several scientific studies the doctor said that "working 55 or more hours per week is associated with a 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week". Further, working for more than 55 hours a week kills more than 8,00,000 people every year, he said. Long working hours also raise the risk of being overweight, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes -- a precursor to many diseases and early death. "People working 69 or more hours a week are more likely to have moderate to severe depressive symptoms than those working 40 hours a week," he said. "CEOs are inclined to recommend long working hours for their employees to improve their company's profits and their own net worth," the neurologist said. He added that in the case "where employees fall sick, they can be easily substituted". "It is in your best interest to choose an organisation that cares for employees and recommends reasonable working hours - to ensure a better work-life balance," he said. Also read: Nine infants die of whooping cough outbreak in Britain This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

13 July,2024 03:35 PM IST | Mumbai | IANS
Kavya Mukhija

Mid-Day Premium Disabled aspirant recounts horrors from NET exam centre in Delhi

Amid the raging disappointment over National Eligibility Test (NET) exam cancellation, aspirant and wheelchair-user, Kavya Mukhija, has brought to focus the prevalent issue of inadequate accessibility at exam centres for disabled students.While the exam has been rescheduled from August 21-September 4, 2024, by the Education Ministry, the ableist approach of the National Testing Agency (NTA), in failing to provide accessible exam rooms has shaken students with disabilities. Recounting the harrowing incidents from June 18, the 25-year-old took to the social media platform, X describing the exam centre as “inaccessible.” She faced difficulties entering Indraprastha Public School in Rohini, Delhi, which was assigned to her by the NTA. “The road outside was unnavigable. Inside, there were ramps so steep, which were certainly not for wheelchairs manoeuvred by humans,” writes the disability rights advocate.   1. I'm a wheelchair user. The centre allotted to me (Indraprastha Public School, Sector 22, Rohini) was not accessible. The road outside was innavigable. Inside, there were ramps so steep, which were certainly not for wheelchairs manoeuvred by humans. — Kavya Mukhija (@KavyaMukhija) June 19, 2024  The struggles of disabled applicants One of the candidates had to crawl to reach the classroom as the school did not have a single wheelchair on campus, she cites. “The washrooms had a couple of stairs to get in.” Frustrated by the setup, she questions in the subsequent tweets, “Why did the NTA ask for disability details when they could make no arrangements to ensure that the centre was accessible?” If this were not enough, the invigilators at the centre were clueless about the needs of differently-abled students. Makhija states, “The staff was rude beyond measure to my mother, who was accompanying me. First, they refused us to park our car inside the school because the road outside was not fit for use even by a non-disabled person.” Like Mukhija, appearing for exams has been no less than an ordeal for Mahesh Dhangar, a visually impaired student from Mumbai who was unable to find himself a scribe to write his college exams. Despite the Maharashtra government permitting students with learning disabilities to use assisting writers, there has been little help that Dhangar has been able to avail.   Inefficiencies at the exam centre The news has rekindled hopes in aspirants, however, Mukhija is traumatised to reappear in the exam. The lack of accessible exam centers equipped with necessary facilities, such as ramps, elevators and adapted restrooms, hampers student’s ability to navigate and participate in exams smoothly. Health experts working with specially-bled children at Atharv Ability, BKC, Mumbai, shared with Midday that exam centers often lack specialised equipment like ergonomic furniture or assistive technology, which can be crucial for those with physical or sensory impairments. These infrastructural deficiencies create an environment that is not only physically challenging but also mentally stressful for differently-abled examinees, impacting their performance and overall exam experience. Another significant barrier is the lack of sensitised staff who understand the unique needs of differently-abled students. Insufficient training and awareness among exam invigilators and administrative personnel can lead to unintentional discrimination or neglect. Additionally, the bureaucratic process for obtaining necessary accommodations is often cumbersome and lacks clarity, making it difficult for students to secure the support they need in a timely manner. The combination of these systemic and human factors creates a cumbersome environment that undermines the efforts of differently-abled citizens striving to succeed academically.   An appeal to NTA Despite being born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a rare genetic disorder that weakens muscles at birth and makes standing or moving around without assistance difficult, Mukhija is determined to achieve her goal of becoming a Psychology professor. To be able to do so, she expects NTA to “take accessibility into serious reconsideration and not base their judgment of whether a center is accessible or not solely based on the availability of a ramp. I mean, of course, a ramp has to be there, but it also must be usable!” She continues, “The gradient of the ramp should not be very steep because that makes it absolutely unnavigable. Other than that, the seating arrangement should also be taken into consideration because unless the students are comfortable and the seating is properly accessible, how do they expect us to write the exam?” Also, the invigilators and the school staff must be sensitised toward people with disabilities. “They should be aware of the challenges people with disabilities face. Some students with disabilities may have caregivers coming along as well.  So, you know, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every person with a disability is different and their needs are also, different.”   Government’s role in assisting disabled aspirants According to a study on "Accessibility for person with disability in India" by Riya Sinha, Wagisha, Ankita Kar, Subhani D Krishan, the distress felt by persons with disabilities has mainly arisen because the disability laws have not been implemented in all areas adequately.” To date, spaces such as courts, airports, and sports centers continue to report issues with accessibility, such as inadequate availability of wheelchairs and other necessary accommodations for people with disabilities. Despite the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, schemes like the Accessible India Campaign and Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme and budgetary provisions, challenges remain in effective implementation and compliance at state and local levels. While a barrier-free environment enables people with disabilities to move about safely, there remain several loopholes that continue to impede the growth of disabled students. Disability activist Mukhija, stresses that the government, through bodies like the Ministry of Education and the National Testing Agency (NTA), stands responsible for equipping exam centers with ramps, elevators and other facilities that cater to the physical needs of disabled students. She recommends clear protocols for the provision of scribes, extra time and other necessary support to ensure a level playing field. She adds, “Moreover, regular inspections and audits of exam centers must be conducted to ensure ease of accessibility. Also, the government must invest in training and sensitising exam invigilators and administrative staff about the needs and challenges faced by disabled students.” Speaking of resources, she states that the government should also facilitate the availability of resources, such as an online repository of volunteers who can assist disabled students during exams. Wrapping up her appeal, she confesses her uncertainty, “I don’t know if it would lead to any tangible results on the ground. But what I know is my words have raised awareness around inclusivity and accessibility in such exams. Now they cannot deny that some rights have to be given and these are not negotiable.”  

13 July,2024 10:33 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
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