Happy Independence Day India!

A week on and it’s time to celebrate India’s 68th Independence Day.

I was born here in 1982 in a city called Dhanbad, now in the state of Jharkhand but then in the state of Bihar. My interaction with Bihar was limited to annual trips and gazillions of relatives. I grew up primarily in Delhi, studying there, then working in Hyderabad, then studying in Pune and finally working in Mumbai before leaving for Singapore.

As with a parent, it’s easier to see the country’s flaws than to see that which makes droves of foreigners flock to India every year – and stay on.

But the fact remains – India will always be my country, my land, my home. And the first thing I want to improve in India is the way it treats women and children. Infrastructure, environment, corruption can all wait – first we need to create a country where one half of the population is not at the mercy of the benevolence of the other half.

Then together we can work on the rest. And there is a lot of work to be done. Here’s hoping no one is talking about women’s issues in India in another 68 years.

Happy Independence Day India!

Happy 50th National Day Singapore!

Congratulations Singapore!

50 years is a momentous milestone and you deserve all the bouquets and celebrations.

You have been my home since 2011 and what a wonderful home you have been. While I appreciate your fantastic infrastructure and corruption-free bureaucracy, the freedom I have experienced here as a woman in public spaces is the truly matchless gift you have given me.  I am supremely grateful.

Today though, I have just one thing to say to you- don’t be disheartened by the criticism you receive, especially from your young ones. You have served every generation well but each new generation has different desires and expectations and you need to adapt to fulfill them.

But be mindful that you don’t blindly agree to everything. You know from experience that limitless freedom can easily devolve into anarchy. Given the unique character of Singapore, some restrictions are necessary to preserve the integrity of the country.

Give your people space to be themselves and grow, without jeopardizing their future. I have been here a short time but I am confident you can do this.

Here’s wishing you another glorious 50 years Singapore!


Friends, as my contribution to this joyous occasion, I am volunteering with Singapore Fashion Runway, an SG50 celebration programme that aims to bring the country together through fashion. You can read more about it and sign up to join here.

5 tips to become an excellent volunteer

Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with a number of organisations – from NGOs working on social causes to business networking groups. I have come across many good volunteers, some bad volunteers and very few excellent volunteers. Here is how the excellent ones do things (obviously, I fall in this category).

1. Take on a project only when you have the time.

A lot of volunteers start out enthusiastically and take responsibility for a project only to realize later on that they don’t have the time to work on it. As volunteer work is unpaid, accountability is usually lacking and people don’t feel guilty about not doing the work properly, not finishing it on time or handing over charge to someone else at the last minute.

2. Communicate with all the team members.

Volunteer work usually means there is a lot of flexibility in terms of when and where you work. What is sacrosanct however is that there should constant communication between all the members so that everyone is on the same page. Nothing hurts a project more than miscommunication. In this age of WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, there really is no excuse.

3. Be involved throughout the process.

When a project begins, a certain number of people are marked on the emails. They are all supposed to give their inputs and feedback. What happens is that eventually only a few committed ones respond and give timely feedback. The project moves forward, is about to reach its goal when suddenly the dormant members will wake up and start giving their two cents on the topic. You have to listen to them as they are part of the team and there is no boss as everyone is a volunteer.  Work has to be redone, deadlines are not met and a smoothly running machine sputters to a stop. This also demotivates the team members who had been working on the project throughout this time.

4. Do not give excuses.

If you can’t or won’t do something, be upfront and say it. Don’t sit on things till the last minute and then give a 100 excuses to prove that it wasn’t your fault.

5. Treat the work like you would a job.

Being a volunteer doesn’t mean you can slack off. You still have to work as efficiently and effectively as you would in a regular job, in fact more, as places that usually need volunteers are resource poor. You have to be creative, accountable, work as a team and meet deadlines. If you can’t do this, please don’t volunteer.