Interview with Poonam Sharma – Part 2

This maybe just a coincidence but we started this year with the first part of the Interview with Poonam Sharma and on the first festival of the year we have the second part of the interview. In the first part you read about her adventurous life, her take on issues affecting woman and much more. The second part promises to be a cracker. Read on to know about Poonam’s ambitions, favorite five blogs and lots more…


Q: Poonam, you want to be a movie director and your favorite films are all of different genre. We are sure you would be a successful movie director one day. Can you give us a sneak peek on what kind of movie would Poonam’s directorial debut be and whom would you like to cast?

A: Like every dreamer, I have been foolish to announce to the world about my daydream to direct a movie. Honestly, I have LOT to learn before I can actually do that. I haven’t taken a single step so far in that direction.

Personally when I go for a movie, I demand either a strong story or a great experience. Usually either of two suffices for a nice movie watching experience. So, if I were to direct a movie, it should have both of these. Something like Anurag Kashyap’s movies Gulaal and DevD that defy prudishness and are unapologetic in their brutally honest portrayals. Or I would like to create great experiences like in Wake Up Sid that had a run-of-the-mill story but fantastic relatable experience.  If I could ever make a visually riveting movie like Avatar (in 3D) backed by a story (which is a typical Hindi masala movie but fits the visuals), I would say I have made success of my life.

Q: Alchemist Poonam and Visceral Observations. Two complicated words and has a lot of meaning behind it. Can you share with us the significance and the thought behind the names?

A: Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho) is a book, I am aware, people love to bash. But when I read it, several years ago, I found it beautiful, full of messages that made lot of sense to me. The protagonist Santiago desires something that is right near to him, yet he has to conduct a search round the world before he can get to it.  Life’s like that. What I need is perhaps close by, but I need to make that effort to deserve to get it. Like mentioned in the book, I believe in some omens and instincts. And they have put me in good stead several times in my life.

Also, alchemist are these wonderful who could convert things into gold, I like to think that I as a wordsmith I do spin gold. 😉

As for my blog name, Visceral Observations, the word ‘visceral’ means intuitive, which is again a reflection of my personality. My decisions and choices in life are not overtly rational, but certainly intuitive. Hope this explains.

Q: We know you like to call yourself an activist. How do you think can one make a difference to create a better living for the people in the society?

A: Amend. I call myself a small-time activist. Small-time, because I really don’t do much other than occasional teaching, writing and making protests (in person at times). There are many other people like my sister, who choose to work for NGO and work full-time in the social sector with dedication. Only such people can be called activists.

And yes, to your next question, I can certainly say that activists make a difference. My theory is if I can change the life of one person with my efforts, I have paid back my debt to life. I am still to get there, but hundreds of people are making a difference by touching the lives of the underprivileged and the troubled they come across every day. So yeah, I think activism makes a difference. And it can be done in many ways: creating awareness, counselling, donating, teaching, empowering people.

Q: You have blogged quite a few posts on Consumer Rights. With the power of RTI in the consumer hands, do you think the rights of the consumers have increased? Can you also suggest a few examples where you felt the consumer  used his right very effectively so that our readers can benefit from the learnings?

A: Consumer rights do not really grab our eyeballs in India. I think, Consumer Protection Act, 1986 till date remains most under-used law.

I am not being judgemental here, I too can give up (and have) when it comes to long-stretched battles because we all have paucity of time. Just recently, when my flight got cancelled, I got tired of arguing my case to airline to provide next possible replacement flight. When I realised they won’t, and that I might be stranded for two days. I asked for full refund and booked a new flight that cost double. In that moment, I conceded my defeat as a CONSUMER. 🙁

However, there are people like Col. Rajesh Yadav and Amit, who refuse to be put down and have fought consumer court cases. Col. Yadav won a consumer court case against ICICI Bank when bank refused to after a debit card loss and fraud. ICICI bank had to pay him Rs. 80, 000 against the loss of Rs. 46, 000 from his account!

Amit is another hero, who irritated by overcharging at Bangalore Airport had filed a consumer court case. He won. (Though last I spoke to him, he was still waiting for the monetary compensation from the vendor.)

To me, they are the heroes of common man like us. Thanks to them, I know there are consumer courts, where you do not need to hire a lawyer and you can plead your own case. Usually consumer courts are faster. I recommend anyone who is willing to fight their case in a consumer court, read their interviews on my blog for tips and court procedures. Though it has not been easy for even these heroes to hold their ground, but their examples show us that it is DOABLE. We CAN.

For all the readers, who routinely post consumer rights queries on my blog, here is another post that I have written solely for this purpose. This post has links to all recourses available to a Consumer.

Q: Poonam’s heart aches for ragpickers and wants to Hail and Save them, How do you think one can go about doing that? Have you been personally involved in any cause which are for the upliftment of ragpickers?

A: This subject is close to my heart. Every time I see small kids working as rag pickers, my heart does a painful somersault inside. I have written about this issue at various platforms other than my blog.

Not only is this child labour, but also even as a labour it is not recognised or paid well. These kids are not beggars, God, they do us a great service by helping in recycling our waste. For this, they pay dearly with their health and childhood. Ever taken a look at their fingers? They are badly cut, injured, calloused due to constant sifting through all sort of waste.

There is no chance of their attending school since they do this work full-time. Plus there is no real money gain: kabariwala seth robs you, MCD does not recognise you, policeman beats you and sometimes street bullies snatch your earnings.

Yes, I did try making some efforts for them. With the help of NGO (actually many NGOs), we did deliver gloves to ragpickers in some areas. We then visited the houses to request families to dispose of stuff, like broken glass that can injure, carefully. Told them a first level segregation of recyclable and non-recyclable things can be done right at home. That helps our rag picker kids.

Further, we organised teaching classes for these kids on weekends. I wish I could claim we were very successful. We were not. It was hard to retain kids for the classes. Even with snacks. (In fact, some came only for the snacks.) The group of students I taught on one Saturday was nowhere to be seen again on the next. Because these kids have to go and earn, the family needs the money. If you force them or are harsh, they will drop out completely. So you do the best you can. To this day, I wonder what happens to all those kids that are ‘rescued’ from child labour industries? My hunch is after all hue and cry, children perhaps go back to some other work, because we do NOT solve the root cause: the poverty of the family. The family needs employment. Period.

Which is why, I am a great fan of all the NGOs that let you sponsor a child’s education. If your NGO tells you how money is being spent on a child, updates you on the child’s educational progress, believe me it’s a campaign we all must be part of if we can.

Q: You are an instructional designer. Not many people would be knowing about the profile of an Instructional designer. Our readers would love to know more about it.

A: Instruction Design is a study of how learning happens. Abroad, universities and colleges have courses on instruction design. In India, Symbiosis is the only institute that provides you a degree in the subject.

So as a training designer or instructional designer (ID), we design training program for a given subject and learner’s profile. When I say designer, do not confuse me with a graphic designer. Most IDs in India have a dedicated team of graphic designers with whom they work.

So what do we do?

For example, Harvard plans to introduce a course in game design or Citibank wants to train its employee on a new banking software, they call in the services of an ID. As an ID, we do not need to have prior subject-matter knowledge of game design or that software. We have subject matter experts (SMEs) for that. We work in tandem with the SMEs to understand how and what needs to be taught and what goals need to be accomplished.

We (IDs), based on the profile of learner, decide what medium will we choose to design a program: Will it be through a video, or simple graphics or an animation or plain text information, a PowerPoint or via a mini game that aims to teach? We then decide the strategy to teach: Will our course have humor or a story or a scenario or simulation and so on.

A course plan is charted, a storyboard (SB) is created with instructions to multimedia team what to do, SME verifies the accuracy. SB goes into production a multimedia team brings our imagination to life. Our task doesn’t end here. We need to have learner feedback and test them (the learners) to evaluate how effective the training program has been.

So, an ID is a director of a training program. I have designed training programs ranging from game design, visual design,  information security, supply chain management, business administration, corporate planning, ERPs, documentaries for schools and so on. As you can see, a career in instruction design is anything but mundane and can be a roller-coaster ride. You can learn more about ID, at The Writer’s Gateway, a blog run by professional Indian instructional designer Rupa Rajagopalan.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: I find Indian blogs terrific. Be it politics, games, tech, social issues, or entertainment, you have fantastic bloggers in each genre.

From top of mind, if I have to name only 5, these would be:

  • Cartoonist Anshul Maheshwari blogs at Brainstuck.com. He has been interviewed on other places on Web as well as covered by mainstream media in several articles.
  • Nita J. Kulkarni blogs at A Wide angle view of India. Think about any topic India, Nita has a well-researched and thought-provoking post on the subject. She has a HUGE readership, more than 10 lakhs. That’s a blogging feat.
  • Mahendra blogs at An Unquiet Mind. He is staff writer at Makeuseof.com and an editor at Techmeme.  Other than that, he writes a fabulous personal blog where he dabbles in topics ranging from philosophy to movies.
  • Smita blogs at Books, Life n More. She has this chatty blog where she writes about her life and also reviews books in an informal style.
  • Jai Arjun Singh blogs at Jabberwock. Ironically though Jai Arjun Singh is quite a popular blogger, I discovered his blog via Avant Garde Bloggies Awards. I love reading his succinct reviews and opinions on movies and books.

Having mentioned them, I have to point out that I have a rocking blogroll. Each blog on my blogroll is worthy of being read regularly with interest. These blogs speak for themselves. So, they are all my favourites.

If you haven’t interviewed these people here on Blogadda, then you must. Blogadda readers deserve to know more about them.

Q: What promotional techniques work best for your blog? Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?

A: I DO NOT promote my blog. 8 out of 10 times, I update my blog, I don’t inform anybody, do not even post on twitter or Facebook. Every loyal reader/subscriber I have had has been word-of-mouth. Also, I have had several other interview requests, but this is the first one I have ever agreed to.

Another example is the recently organised Avant Garde Bloggies Awards 2009. For this venture, after letting out the first information via blog and email, I did not spam anyone with it anywhere, be it twitter or Facebook. Only few, necessary updates were made. But I must add that it helped to know several wonderful bloggers and twitter-ers who helped to spread word via their tweets and blog posts. My sincere thanks to each one of them.

I have never made money out of my personal blog, so I would not preach about how to go about it.

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: Freedom to express yourself without any inhibitions and the discussion that comes with blogging is very gratifying. Sometimes, a conversation opens your mind, changes the way you look at things. And of course, appreciation and recognition that comes your blog is an icing on the cake. It has happened to me several times now, that I have gone to an event or a meet where no one recognises me. But if I mention my blog, they are like, “Oh, I know your blog. You are that Poonam.” Suddenly I am no longer a stranger, but someone with whose opinions they agree (or disagree) and respect. That, I think, is the gift of blogging. 🙂

Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?

A: Just get on with writing. Don’t reconsider the idea/angle of the post too much. Start writing just as your thoughts start flowing, post will come on its own. Now is not the time to edit, editing is different process than writing. It will come later when you have put all your thoughts on blog.

Don’t set a condition for yourself: That I will write when I finish this task or when I check this up and so on. Most probably you will never fulfill your condition and your writing will suffer.

And remember for writing well, you need to be a good reader first.

Lastly, interact with your commentators. Engage them. Because these are the people, whose appreciation and opinions will keep you going on your bad blogging days.

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Blue and Black. I need both, can’t do without either of them.

Movie: From top of my mind: Casablanca, One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest, DevD, Gulal, Johnny Gaddar, Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis, Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Abhimaan, I could go on and on. Here is one such list of my favourite movies starting with each alphabet.

TV Show: None at the moment. I have not watched TV for more than six months now. But usually I like to watch dance based shows. I have loved both Nach Baliye and Jhalak Dikhla Ja at one point of time.

Book: Again from top of my mind: The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood), To Kill a Mocking Bird, (Harper Lee), City of Djinns (A Delhi book by William Dalrymple), Watership Down (Richard Adams), Riots (Shashi Tharoor), The Kite Runner (Khalid Hosseini), Angela’s Ashes (A memoir by Frank McCourt), Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts), English, August (Upmanyu Chatterjee)..Oh, I could go on and on. You can get more info about my readings and choices at my Shelfari and Goodreads page.

Time of Day: Late in Night. I am a nocturnal bird.

Your Zodiac Sign: Aquarius

Thanks a lot Poonam for the interview and the first-look exclusive picture. We wish you the best for all your endeavors. It was a pleasure knowing the alchemist and for the first time the face behind ‘Alchemist Poonam’. Readers, shoot in your questions now to Poonam and ask her something which you have always wanted to. Here is the chance. If you jumped in to this interview directly, do not forget to read the part one of this interview.

Connect with Poonam: Blog, BlogAdda, Twitter

18 Replies to “Interview with Poonam Sharma – Part 2”

  1. Poonam, I wish you become director one day and I hope to tear your product apart… Hahaha…..

    Chill… U will be a great message conveying maker…. .go for it… work on it.

  2. Enjoyed reading your interview yet again Poonam 🙂
    I didn’t know about the extent of your involvement with social causes. Brace yourself for a telephone interview on the same lines now 🙂

  3. Once again, a pleasure to read! And I salute you, not just for the activism, wonderful as it is that you’re so involved – but because you’ve come this far without much propaganda of your blog or posts or anything about yourself, like what I’ve seen happening. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it does speak a lot of the person that you are 🙂 Keep being yourself.

    -gauri

  4. Director? cool… And look at Vee’s first comment! Cruel. he he

    And I just discovered your blog recently so I wasn’t aware of all your activism. Great going girl. “My theory is if I can change the life of one person with my efforts, I have paid back my debt to life.” Yeah, that’s what most of us are cynical about thinking what difference would 1 life make. Well itdoes make a diff. to that 1 life.

    Great to know the person behind the words, this time though, I think all those big words are justified!

  5. No!!! I don’t want another Dev D 😛

    Loved the interview!! Have you ever thought of joining the Teach India initiative??

    Thanks for the mention 🙂

  6. You will be a great director someday! All the very best for that! 😉 I enjoyed DevD thoroughly. It portrayed reality and was far different than the usual movies we see that are crammed up with unnecessary “masala”. Loved and could connect to “The Alchemist” too! It teaches you a lot!! 🙂

    Even though you weren’t very successful with the weekend classes you started for those kids, you took an initiative at least. That itself says a lot about you!! 🙂 Most wouldn’t even think of something like that. You could join the Teach India initiative like Smita has suggested. And organisations like “Help a Child” help you sponsor a child!

    You have done an awesome job with organising the Avant Garde Bloggie Awards- last year and this year too!

    Hats off to you! 😉

    Great Interview! 🙂

  7. We all wish we can do something about those little kids…but then we need to put in a collective effort as a society for it to be successful… 😐

    Nice interview 😀

  8. It was fantastic interview. Q raised were very opt and superb and A were equally opt and relevant.
    we have dreams then only we can achieve. wish you achieve all your dreams poonam all the best
    pranesh

  9. @Vee: I have not even started and here are threats. :scared: 😛 Hopefully, I can start small. Street plays, what say?

    @Shraddha, Dr. Roshan: Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

    @Rajiv: Whoa, you read my inner-view? 😛 Read the first one, that’s more personal?

    @Radha: Sure, Radha, will love to. Thank you, girl, for being there. 🙂

    @Gauri: I sometimes giggle like a teenager at your praise. I am glad to have known you. Thanks for being there, unconditional support. I should soon have sometime on my hands, will bother you ‘bountiful’ again. 😛

    @Rakesh: Yeah, Vee’s best jokes come from (on) his friends. (And mine too) Agree when you say it makes huge difference to that life. Thank you for kind words.

    @Imp’s Mom: Thank for your vote of confidence in my abilities. It counts.

    @Smita: Guess, like my sister, you didn’t like it? Hope you are not as extreme as my sister to call it worst move experience of her lifetime. I was TeachIndia volunteer from last year. I now volunteer as teacher for this NGO: http://www.greatfoundation.org/home

    @Anu: Another vote of confidence. Thank you. It counts. 🙂 Good to know a fellow girl who enjoyed DevD and could connect to Alchemist.

    See my answer to Smita above for Teach India. Know several NGOs from Delhi where you can sponser a child’s education. It is not very expensive either. We easily spend that amount on our clothes.

    This year I am having a hard time with paucity of time and huge participation (which is good.) It is no longer one-person-job. Something needs to be thought on how to handle this next time.

    @Vishesh: Thank you, Vishesh for the compliment. Wish each of us keep at what we believe in at our level. It is hard considering alone we don’t seem to make any impact. But some changes are bound to happen together.

    @Praneshachar: Thank you, Praneshachar. Good to see your comments here. It is Blogadda that needs to be thanked for their selection of questions. Thanks for your best wishes, mean a lot. Amen!

  10. Hey poonam, this interview is impressive stuff. I always knew you had a lot of depth as a person, and it comes through in this interview. I hope you carry on will all your activities successfully and achieve all your dreams.
    Thank you for mentioning my blog even though I am on a longish break.

  11. Thank you for your wishes, Nita. I got to know about your blogging hiatus just few days back. Been busy, not been to reader much. One of your worried readers told me. 🙂 Hope you are back to blogging when you think is right. Key work is ‘BACK’. 8)

  12. Balaji Ramamurthy Hi Poonam

    This is Balaji who came for the Counseling training @ School of social work with Ratna and Aperna ,(my MSW class mate.).You seems to put on little weight more, like me.Do you meet Ratna in Delhi .Ratna was a counselor @ Thihar correction center.

    I kindof like your blog.I like seeing national parks.Yosemite,Red… wood forest,Half moon bay,King cannyon,lake Tahoe,lake Shasta in California.

    Staring a non profit org called 4 Lotus for school kids.Developing creative solutions through kids for the future challenges.We can do a collobration with your ID org .I feel it has the potential to give a shpe to the 4 Lotus project through training.

    I know about AYC rag pickers project throgh James Arputharaj,One of my mentor and prof in Madras Chrisyian College.

    Like reading books on buddhism,Ravi shakers youtube videos and qoutes,Swami Nidthyanda’s sprituality.

    Friendly,
    Balaji Ramamurthy
    650-740-2156
    Cupertino, CA 95014 USA

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