A tiny home-improvement decision that I think I will take as I move to a new house in the next week. Part of my 30 days of writing every day for 30 minutes project.
This is the second day of this new project where I try and write every day for 30 minutes. As I start writing this, it is 9:09 PM (ended at 9:56 PM) and I do have this one thing that I want to talk about. Let’s see how long I take to write it.
So, in less than a week, I move to a new house. Like all the other houses that I have lived at, this one is also not mine and that means I am reluctant to acquire things that make the house a home. I mean I don’t put no pictures, no photos, no posters, nothing that resembles a place that is lived well. Even the furniture, I don’t acquire it. I don’t like the idea of material possessions (while I do have a bagful of memories – photos, postcards, tickets, hand-written trinkets and all that), I try and not attach myself to things.
There are multiple reasons for that. Lemme make a list.
A. In the past, when I did have things that I could attach myself to, every time I’d move the house, those would break and I’d get sad about em. So, to avoid disappointment, I decided against acquiring things.
B. Thing is, I like finer things (you know, expensive, made with love, limited edition, by artisans) and I have this big child ego (I either want the whole world, or nothing) and I have never had a lot of disposable money to be able to buy all the nice things. So, I trained myself to overlook these material things and not pine for those. I would of course continue to spend money to get some of these for friends. These gifts are voluntary – I can choose to get those or I could not get any at all. However, if I get addicted to better things, I would start pining for those and I know I can’t afford em. So, detach.
C. Continuing with the thread of detachment, I am trying to have minimal attachments to material things. This means I am embracing minimalism, Buddhism, Stoicism, Mary-Knodoism, Hagge-ism, and every other such -ism that tells us to be simple with our lives.
Of course, do get emotional when I have to change the house. I do not like to be around when I move. I rely on my friends and handymen to do so. Like they say, truth, is weirder than fiction 🙂
D. I saved the best for the last. I love space. And the kind of houses that we have in Mumbai, we have anything but space. Even with minimal furniture and furnishing, you sort of keep bumping into the walls all the time. So, I try and avoid stuffing the house with things!
So yeah, I have lived my life in a certain manner (like a robot) and I think it serves me well.
So, why this post?
Well, as I said, I am going to move to a new house in the next week. And as I get ready to make the move, I am thinking that I will change it! Thinking. Not doing it. And I will list those reasons as well here.
1. I want to look at life on the other side. The side where you get emotional about things. I am after all an experience junky. To a point that I want to pack a thousand lives into this tiny one that we have. And I’d love to see things from. the perspective of the vain ones.
2. I want to assert my personality. When I had a business that was well and alive (prior to the COVID shock), I could project myself via my work. Now, I cant. So, I need to find something that allows me to. Even if it’s a simple wall in one of the rooms where I post things that are important to me.
3. I have always been a public-place person. I cant spend time at home. I feed off the energy of others and that means I love places like cafes and offices and worksites where I can see others working. Thanks to this WFH thingy, I know that I may not be able to get back to an office anytime soon (even though I have been going to a Starbucks every day for a week now). So, I need to convert the new place to resemble a bright, cheery place. That means I will have to get home those yellow lights, ambient speakers, the aroma of the coffee, and more! music systems and all that. And that means I will have to set up a few things that make my house, well, home, and start living like a human!
Robot. Human. Get the drift?
That’s it for the day.
With this, its over and out. See you guys tomorrow!
If you like this, spread the word. Help me get an audience. I know these essays are cool 😀 Older posts – 3010.
Come find out why am I picking a new hobby of writing everyday for at least 30 minutes.
So, I am part of this group of writers that meets once every week (on Zoom). All of us want to write long-form content (3000+ words in length) and in general, be better writers. Thus, a lot of our chats are around how to write better, how to get better ideas for writing, how to have an interesting perspective on things to be able to write about those, and so on and so forth.
We throw ideas at each other, we ask each other tough questions and more importantly, we try and help each other out when we are stuck.
On this week’s call, Shravya talked about Andy Matuschak and his routine of writing every day for 30 minutes. What he writes could be a thing as simple as a summary of the book that he’s read recently. Or it could be a part of an essay that he’s working on. Or something from his writing inbox. The output is not important. What is important is that he gets 30 minutes of writing done.
Think of it as your daily practice of workout, meditation, or even those 10000 steps! It’s such a simple idea and I think like all other things that you do as routine for a fairly long period, it would compound and give you fabulous returns.
I have myself engaged in a similar exercise at different times where I would ensure that I would write every day. I have done various avatars – from writing an SoG a day to writing 1000 words a day to even taking a picture each day and writing about it. Of course, I always slack after a few days.
But I have never been this serious about writing as I have been in the past few months. Not even when I was writing #tnks! Thing is, I have seen some crazy connections happen just because what I wrote resonated with so many people!
I realise that writing could actually lead me to things that I want in life – access to interesting people, money and more importantly, impact. Even if I am not the most flowery writer. Even if I am not the deepest, most insightful writer. And even if I what I write does not move a mole!
So, buoyed by that, here’s a promise to self.
To double down on effort I make with my writing. I will add 30 minutes of writing to my daily routine (other things there are 10 minutes of meditation, 16000 steps and 20 pullups). And I will publish each day’s work here, on this blog.
I will do this for at least 30 days, start today. Today is Day 1 and this post is today’s output 🙂
Do read what I write and do feed me back with how I could improve.
I realised that even if I do choose to become a full-time, freelance writer, I would continue to be associated with the marketing / communications industry in some manner. And with the startup universe. Maybe as a mere people-connector. Or maybe as a consultant, maybe as a service provider and of course as a seeker of services (often I get projects that are bigger than what I can handle by myself and I need collaborators).
I don’t know yet.
But I think this would be the new normal for other creative + knowledge workers like me. People would don multiple hats, do multiple things (things that they like) and collaborate with others that have the same sensibilities and yet different, complementary skills.
Afterall, this lockdown and pandemic has taught more people about the importance of life than anything else. And I think a lot of people would choose to work on things that matter to them!
In fact, the good one would go the freelance route for sure! They know that they can choose a location independent life and yet do meaningful work. And because they are good, they can continue to get work without hustling hard for it.
Of course this is counter-intuitive to common wisdom – everyone “knows” that tough days are coming and you need the stability of a full-time job with a large company. But I maintain that we’d see more freelancers! Let’s revisit this in a few months to see if I were right.
The trouble with going freelance is, well, too many troubles! Lemme list a few.
As a freelancer…
There is no regular, predictable supply of work. I mean, as an average gig worker (I am talking for myself), I have access to limited contacts. And once I exhaust those, I don’t know how else to seek work. Of course, if I were good, a referral engine would get built and I don’t need to seek work.
But like I said, I am average and all the people that I work for, may not refer me to more clients!
To solve this first one, I may goto platforms like Upwork, Gigster, Fiverr but from what I understand, getting the first few projects is like a nightmare. You need to be super active on the platform, pitch till you die and you would then, if all goes well, land a project! Plus, each pitch is like a project in itself – after all requirements from each gig is different. So, it is time consuming and yet there is no guarantee of returns.
This is my biggest issue – the best work happens when you do something consistently for a longtime. With the gig economy, as a creator, I don’t get to create long-term relationships and thus, long-term projects. I am always left pining for more work! Plus, most projects become a transaction and once the project is over you are out. There is no continuity, no documentation, no love that I can carry with me. I don’t know how to solve for this; apart from getting hired as an ongoing consultant!
As someone who’s hire freelancers…
I get way too many applications if I post my requirements on an open platform. I don’t have the time to sift through each application, respond to all queries. I need a gig done, often fast and I want someone reliable.
The biggest grouse that businesses have is that freelancers are unreliable. They sign-up for the project and then the project becomes a never-ending cycle of a Tom and Jerry chase!
The people I work with, in case I want to offer them another project, they may or may not be able to pick it up. After all they are masters of their destinies! So, even if I want continuity, I don’t know how to keep working with the same set of people.
Finally, most platforms that I use to find freelancers, they create such walled-gardens that I can’t even communicate with the freelancers. I mean I understand that they want transactions to happen on their website but why stifle the communication? The ratings and reviews is a big enough reward for me to search for more talent on your platform!!
So, what is common to two?
No trust. The default setting is that you don’t trust the other party.
Closed vs Open networks. AKA, WhatsApp groups – most people (both buyers and sellers) start within their respective networks and then move to open networks if the requirement remains unfulfilled. While this helps tackle the trust part, it adds friction and extends the timeline for projects.
Ad-hoc demand for both seeker and provider. Once a project has been completed, the seeker may not need services again for a bit. And vice versa. This breaks the continuity and long-term delivery.
These are all I can think of. I am sure there are more!
Wait. What could be a few solutions to this freelance conundrum?
The freelancer-first business life would mean that there has to be businesses that connect freelancers with gigs. There are quite a few of those right now – from an Upwork to Flexingit to a hundred more.
However, I have an issue with how they are managed. Most of these are self-serve platforms where they match gigs with workers and they take a fee off the top. The quality, reliability, contracting, and other things remain questionable. They do have escrows and dispute resolution mechanisms but there is just way too much friction on both sides. As a freelancer, I don’t know if I’ll get paid for what I worked on. As a seeker of services, I don’t know if I’d get output worth my investment.
Plus the biggest challenge?
As a company that needs to hire gig workers, I need to be on different platforms for different kinds of work. Upwork for design, marketing gigs, Gigster for tech projects, Fiverr for low value, repetitive tasks and so on and so forth. And then there are services that are not fulfilled by any platform right now (at least I am not aware of those). For example, what if I need a lawyer? Or a Company Secretary for that matter? Or a CA. What about a photographer in a small town deep in South India? Or the services of a chef for an upcoming birthday of a friend?
I can use age-old yellow books and classifieds websites (Justdial et al) but how do I ensure that these contractors actually deliver? How do I give them the confidence that I am not window shopping?
So, here’s the idea!
How about someone build the yellow pages for the times we live in, an Indiamart of sorts where, as a business, I can find service providers of ALL kinds? And the platform actually manages the entire project for me (and not just stop at matchmaking). You know, I’d love to have a shared COO of sorts for my business!
In fact, I tried implementing one iteration with a friend (Bhuvi Gupta) in a cottage-industry manner but we could not reach anywhere with it. See this post I made on Linkedin and the subsequent form we floated. Our thesis was that COVID-19 has left a lot of great agency folks jobless and they could use our networks! However, we could not make it work.
I wish there was someone who helped me solve this pain. I’d love to be on such a platform – both as a service provider and a seeker.
As of today, the only place that comes close is refrens.com. Run by a friend, Naman, they are solving this very problem. As a company that seeks a variety of things done, I can go to them and they will not only match me with people that can deliver but also manage the entire project end to end.
Super early days for them. They seem to be onto something big here! Lets see what they come up with. I hope they are reading this post and once they do so, they hire me to run their marketing (NS, are you reading?). And if not that, at least get me some gigs and find me some doers 🙂
Even when we are in 2020, why do I prefer blogging over tweets? As a creator, as a learner and as someone that wants to grow!
If you are a longtime reader of this blog (or blogs in general), you would know how blogging as a hobby has been sort of replaced by things like Instagram, tweets, and so on and so forth. Both in general and for me. And how blogging is now a lot more “content marketing” where companies pay peanuts to desk monkeys to churn out words that trap those search engine spiders logs. And how the “content” that is created does not really do anything good to any reader, even if they may want to read about that topic. And how there is so much content that it’s impossible to filter noise and signal; assuming you know what is signal for you! And how long-form writing by non-writers is dying a slow death?
It’s sad that so many people sharing so many deeply personal anecdotes with so many strangers is all gone. I mean it’s now moved to Twitter and Instagram and all that. But I am not sure how many people are blessed with the talent to push their thoughts in mere 280 characters (or maybe 2200 for Insta). I, at least cant. Not that gifted. May be if I work hard on writing, I may learn the art of brevity?
And this is why I have kept the blog alive. And this is why I love the idea of writing letters (come, be my pen pal?). And this is why I like the idea of journaling, diary entries, notes, etc.
The thing is, a blog allows me to push my unfiltered thoughts, things I am thinking on, things I am working on, things I seek opinion on. And put those somewhere on the world wild web. For others to see and respond to and allow me to think better.
I miss those times when I’d be brimming with ideas about the blog posts that I’d want to write. I’d have a draft folder thicker than all the 7-8 Harry Potter books combined. And I’d look forward to publishing posts and wait with bated breath for that one rare comment that I would get once in a month or two. It was another level of exhilaration. Something that the Twitter generation would never know – after all, tweets are far faster to engage with 🙂
So, today, I am thinking about where do I want my content to go (this is what I’d do with my blog – write write write till I get tired; vomit out all my ideas, thoughts here; and since the blog is in the public domain, I’d try harder to put forth better arguments; and by the time I was done writing, I’d have some sort of clarity). Here is my attempt to think with my words.
And, with that, here we go. In no order…
1. Individual as a Media Company
In the times to come, unless you are a media company (even as an individual), you’d lose out. As a business, as an individual, as even a rock or a vegetable. Stories, media, content would help you stay relevant.
You thus have to think like a media company and churn out content that is valuable and interesting and all that.
2. 1000 True Fans
The entire idea of 1000 True Fans would be far far more relevant in the times to come. Creators (a word I used when I applied for Gumroad’s gig for customer service) would live lives that they want and will rely on patrons to support them with micro-transactions, micro-donations. And with time, you would see more and more people go down the creator route. We are already seeing the likes of Patreon, Onlyfans, etc allowing people to create economically sustainable lives.
As someone who likes to straddle multiple things and at some point in time make an impact for a billion people, I need to be very very good with words. After all, words do move mountains. And these words will open doors for me, allow me to know more people, satiate my curiosity, and so on and so forth.
In one word, my words will give me access. And thus I need to get more active and more aggressive with this!
4. Text vs Pictures vs Video
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. So, to improve the output by a 1000×1000, I need to pivot to doing videos at some point. Not sure though when.
PS: Thanks, Annkur for the nudge. Do tell me what would you want to see on a video from me.
5. One, single, unified home for content
Right now, my content is scattered at multiple places – my own website, medium, blog, Mailchimp, tiny letter, substack, and more. And with each passing day, these platforms are only going to grow and more platforms would come in. And thus the content will scatter even more.
And as a result, my patrons (and the ones I want to get access to) would probably not find what they are looking for!
So I need to find a solution to this. May be I will use the website to showcase the best work and one blog destination to dump these thoughts? I don’t know yet.
6. Tracks that people want to read about
Continuing with the scatteredness, it is no secret that I am a scatterbrain. My writing, output, and other things are spread too thin. I talk about marketing, entertainment, content, podcasts, entrepreneurship, writing, habits, notes, poker, and a million other things.
And thus there is no way I can give a consistent experience to readers that are interested in just one genre. I mean if you are a filmmaker, you may want to read what I had to write about The Trial of the Chicago 7 but why would you read about how I refuse to have a kitchen at my home? Or that walking barefoot is the thing you need to practice but living in a city like Mumbai, it’s literally impossible!
So once I know what and how and where all I am writing, there has to be a way for people to identify “tracks” they want to consume and they must be able to go down that path easily. For example, when you are subscribing to newsletters on those large websites, you have an option of subscribing to certain sections (kind of content) and receive updates from only that section, that track. I will have to implement that!
Lemme talk about Twitter. The thing that got me down this path!
The thing with the tweet is, even though there is a permalink of the tweet per se, to me, a tweet looks and feels ephemeral. It is something that’s hanging in the air. I’d love to change it and have a more solid, permanent, tangible link. Like a URL to a website. A website feels a lot more solid to me. Oh, by the way, the public URLs that I host on my own website on? They are tough to pull off – I keep trashing my website every now and then and I start from scratch! I need to fix this.
Plus, while most of my greatest connections have come via Twitter, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s the primary destination where I create content. It can at best be a distribution platform. And heck, it’s a powerful destination! No?
8. Writing to pay your bills
Making money and pivoting to being a writer! This is a big one. And this is what I am most conflicted about.
The thing is, I’d love to be on substack or Patreon or something because I like the idea of monetizing my audience, my true fans. Even though I do NOT write with the intention of making money off my writing, I have been told by at least one person (thanks, Krishna!) that he is happy to pay me for what I write. Apparently, it adds value to his life. And that to me is music.
For two reasons. A, I add value. The reason I even write in the first place. And B, people find it valuable enough to pay!
So, if I can get 1000 people like Krishna, I’ll be free from the rigmarole of holding onto a steady job! And I can potentially take a step in the direction where I won’t have to work for others. And spend my life like a dog chasing cards – in random pursuits, where the chase itself is a reward!
Of course, once I start seeking money for what I write, I need to not get sucked into this honeytrap and go down the desk-monkey route.
The other thing that I am sure of is that I do not want to “profiteer” by sharing things I know. Whatever little I know, I know those because I have had generous people who were kind to me and shared things with me without expecting anything in return. And it is not right for me to profiteer when I myself haven’t paid for those! So that!
A big part of me thus does not want to charge at all. May be I’ll accept donations? I can ask people to donate whatever they deem is ok. But then, while I go with the pay what you go model, do I want to guilt-trip people into paying? Dunno.
And if and when I do go the monetization path (in whatever shape or format), I need to decide how do I do it. With Patreon? Substack? Stripe? Ideally, I’d love to have a button or something (may be stripe connection to WordPress) on my own website. Let’s see.
Sigh! You see the conflict?
This is a big one. Right now, I write things as and when I feel like. There is no structure, no predictable cadence, no topic, no accountability. But once I decide that I want to be a writer for hire, I would have to be a lot more accountable. Someone said it right that a predictable routine is one of the secrets behind a free, wild, flowing, interesting life – the kind that gives you experiences that you long for. And the experiences that can shape you into a better man!
So, I need to probably pull them socks up and get to a routine. For what I write, even if it’s across genres and all that. No?
So yeah, these things.
What started as a rant, a comparison between tweets and blog posts has become a tome that I am not sure who would read.
I will decide over the next few days and I will of course keep you guys posted. Till then, it’s over and out!
An unofficial biography of Smita Patil – researched and written by Saurabh Garg.
Hello! So somehow I stumbled onto the life of Smita Patil and I was so fascinated that I got reading about her. The output was this twitter thread. Here’s the same thread, in the shape of an essay.
Smita Patil was an actor par excellence and above all, an extraordinary human being. She lived for all of 31 years but her legacy HAS to stay around for 31 millennia at least and this is an attempt towards that.
If I could sum her life in 3 bullet points, I’d say, she was/is…
– a study in contrasts
– deeply compassionate, especially towards under-represented (indie filmmakers, feminists, the common folk)
– fearless, spoke her mind and lived life on her own terms
Wait. Before I start, I think she was probably not meant to be even born! Smita was the second child of Shivajirao Patil (a politician) and Vidyatai Patil (a social-worker/nurse). However, when her mother was pregnant with Smita, their financial condition was unstable and her mother was reluctant to continue with the pregnancy when she conceived Smita. Even when the mother went ahead with Smita, she was born premature baby (on 17 Oct ’56).
Legend says that when she was born, she had an angelic smile on her. Her mom named her Smita. Smita means “ever-smiling woman”. And since she was dusky, her mother endearingly called ‘Kali’ or its appendages like ‘Kaloba’ and ‘Kaluli’.
Most of her friends call her Smi though. I will take the liberty of calling Smi in this post.
Smi, as long as she lived, had a very strong and important relationship with her mother. Smi would often quip (in Marathi), “Tula mi nako hote na” (you didn’t want me, right?). Nothing could be far from the truth. Smi’s mother has been a pivotal figure in her life. She in fact raised Prateik (Smita Patil’s son) when Smi passed away at the young age of 31.
Growing up, Smi’s family was based in Pune and was part of “Rashtriya Sewa Dal” where they’d travel to towns and villages across India and performed dance dramas. She’d play the role of Jijabai (Shivaji’s mother). This was her early tryst with dance, acting, stage, and everything else that we know her for!
HOW DID SHE GET INTO FILMS?
One of her friends, Deepak Kirpekar, was a hobbyist photographer and would take pictures of Smita Patil in various outfits. Since the photographer’s friend was a newsreader on DD (Jyotsna Kirpekar), the couple would often go to the DD office at Worli, in Mumbai. Once while they were there, the office was getting renovated and the friend spread Smita’s photos on a makeshift table, while his wife was busy. These photos caught the eye of then DD director, P.V. Krishnamurthy. He invited Smi to audition and the rest is, well, history!
Smi started as a newsreader on DD and she was so good with her husky voice and magnetic eyes that people would rush home to catch her show! One of these was actor Vinod Khanna, who was romantically involved with Smi at a point in time.
Cut to FTII.
A couple of students (one of them was Arun Khopkar) were looking for actresses for their Diploma Film. They asked Shabana Azmi but she was unavailable. They were lost and went walking around the FTII campus. They passed by a TV shop where the bank of TV screens was tuned onto Smita Patil, reading the news! They were stuck by “defined cheekbones and striking eyes” and decided to cast her.
They did not know who she was but they tracked her down and convinced her to do a role in ‘Teevra Madhyam’. This film is on Youtube! See it here. Post that film, Smi got to work on some roles for Shyam Benegal. These included Charandas Chor (a children’s film), and Nishant (Smi shared the screen with Shabana Azmi in this one).
Later, Benegal signed her for Bhumika, which was based on the life of Marathi actor Hansa Wadkar and her struggle to cope with her career, love, and independence. For this role, Smi won the National Award for the best actress (in 1977).
This film made her realize that films were her calling. And there was no stopping her.
Three years later she won her second National Award, this time for Chakra (in 1980). It is said that she donated all the money that she got as the award to women’s causes. She also won a Filmfare for this film (in 1982). Oh, random trivia – Nasserdduing Shah was her co-actor in both films. And years later, the two of them also auditioned for an adaptation of Gandhi.
Her string of awards did not stop here.
She was conferred with a Padma Shri in 1985, one of the youngest (if not THE youngest) film personalities to be awarded.
The Government of India ever released a postage stamp honoring her!
AS AN ACTOR
As an actor, she chose to do experimental, small, and art films over commercial ones.
She would do films for free or tiny sums if she liked the subject and content. Case in point? Bhavani Bhavai (in 1980). The film explored caste-discrimination in Gujarat and Smi did it because she believed in the underlying theme and message of the film.
She eventually did foray into commercial cinema. She did only to expand her acting prowess. Plus she believed that if she becomes famous, she could support small filmmakers more! After all her audience would be curious to see smaller films if they featured her. She apparently said, “commercial film is a job I have to do in order to pursue my goal of helping create an audience for the small film in India.”
Even with commercial cinema, Smi refused to do films that underplayed the role of women.
Namak Halal is a noteworthy exception. The ‘Aaj Rapat Jaaye’ track apparently pained her immensely. She was reportedly very upset with the song and after it was shot, she locked herself up in her room and cried for hours. It was only AB who could put her at ease!
Anyhow. She did about 80 films. About 10 of those were released after she passed away. She was paired frequently with Rajesh Khanna. And with Raj Babbar (RB).
In Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth, Smi’s character loves a married man and wants to settle down with him. Ironically, the theme played out in her real life as she fell in love with RB, a married man with two kids!
Smi was married to Raj Babbar (RB) and like other things in her life, it probably wasn’t meant to happen!
Well, for starters, RB was already married to Nadira. Second, her mother was unhappy about it. She apparently said, “I can’t get out of our purana sanskar nor can I embrace contemporary morality fully.” Plus, it may not have mattered to her but the very feminist institutions that she supported, labeled her “ghar todne wali” once the news broke.
But Smi and RB persisted and eventually married. Oh, and RB was still married to Nadira at this time. A big deal in Indian society. And more so in those times! Years later, RB said about Smi, “I would say that she was a bit mizaazwali (this is being said with all the respect and humility towards her)”
And so yes she was!
PS: I must add that there are unsubstantiated reports that she apparently had a turbulent, emotionally abusive marriage with RB. She reportedly planned to leave him after childbirth. Not sure of this though.
Smi was “delighted” when she became a mother. Here is an anecdote. Soon after PB was born, she developed a high fever (104 degrees). She put ice packs on her body and fed him!
PS: I can write a LOT about the early days of Prateik Babbar and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip it.
SMITA PATIL’S LEGACY
Smita Patil is probably the most remarkable person I have come to know. I don’t even know how to get started talking about her.
People that knew her to call her bindaas, bohemian, and Tom-boy-ish. And yet she stood for women’s rights and the early feminism movement. Even though she would play tough, conservative roles on screen, in real life, she was the polar opposite! She was a typical bindass girl, “very liberated and progressive in her thoughts and work.” She was fond of western clothes and wore off-shoulder dresses, halter tops, fitted trousers, and boots in contrast to her screen image in perfect handloom sarees.
For her news gigs, she would go to the studio in her jeans and shirt and wrap the saree neatly just minutes before the camera rolled in!
Her mother once said, “She used to dress like a bhikaran (a tramp). She’d wear a pair of jeans, pull on a kurta (even her father’s), Kolhapuri chappals, tie her hair into a bun and rush out. She never needed a mirror. Once she was to meet a well-known editor for an interview at a restaurant. He couldn’t recognize her. He kept waiting for ‘actress Smita Patil’, till she introduced herself. They both burst out laughing.”
Smi was dedicated to women’s causes and women empowerment and wanted to change the perceptions about women. She was part of the Women’s Centre in Bombay and contributed the money earned from her awards to women’s organizations. This link is a great read about her support for the feminist movement.
I have to say that unlike most of her co-stars, she belonged to the people! Apart from taking a vocal stand for feminist causes and indie & small filmmakers, she truly was a gem a human being. She treated everyone with respect. She could be found playing volleyball with the unit boys.
She would sit with the women of the village to catch breaks between shoots and was often unrecognizable to the public who had come to see her. Smi was a vegetarian and did not complain even at tough locations. If required, she would cook her own food, by borrowing things from the villagers.
Once there was a rebellion in one of the units on a shoot. The workers were demanding better food. Smi tackled and ended by announcing and eating the same red rice that they were served!
Even as a child, she was deeply compassionate. She’d bring stray cats and dogs home and feed them with milk and biscuits. She would personalize her gifts. She would write something special to make the gift special.
Smi was fond of photography, roads, drives, and adventure in general. The minute pack-up would be announced, she’d zip off! She once took off to Rajasthan and gave no explanation, no reason to anyone. When she came back a month later, she had a heap of photos she had shot on her Leica.
Once during monsoons, Smita drove Ashalata, another actress, at neck-break speed to Khandala. She jested with the scared Ashalata and said, “Imagine the fun if tomorrow the headlines carry, ‘Smita and Ashalata died in a car crash’!” Other trivia about Sri before we move on? Well, she… – wanted to be a director- contributed to production and costumes- came up with “Genesis” as the name for the new company of the veteran adman, Prahlad Kakkar.
Smi loved the sea and she wanted a sea-facing flat and yearned to enjoy the rain splashing through open windows. On her visits to see the house she was building, she would have chai from the kettle along with the workers. In fact, Smi wanted these very workers to be the first guests in her home! And they were indeed the first guests. Just that Smi had passed away by then!
The end of this fascinating life is also intriguing like the rest of it. During the shooting of Situm (1984), a handwriting expert apparently said that “She won’t live long!”.
She herself had this uncanny 6th sense, apparently. She had a premonition about AB’s Coolie accident the night before it happened!
About her own life, at different times in her life, Smi apparently told her younger sister that she wouldn’t live long. And she told Mahesh Bhatt that the lifeline was short.
The most freaky? She told actress, Poonam Dhillon that she’d die at 31!
And boy, was she right?
She did die at the age of 31. Her son was all of 2 weeks old at the time.
The most commonly held belief is that Smi died of Viral Encephalitis and most reporters write it as complications arising from childbirth. I am not sure of this though. Plus there are accounts that she died from medical negligence. And there are murmurs of murder. No, this is NOT substantiated at all.
I’d say the cause of death is a mystery.
Once Smi told a friend (Deepak Sawant) that when she died, she wanted to be sent off as a “Suhagan”. And as per her wishes, she was indeed decked up like a bride on her last journey. Random Trivia – DS has worked for decades with Amitabh Bachchan as well.
IN THE END
As I wrap this piece about Smi, I want to mention two people here. Shabana Azmi (SA) and Prateik Babbar (PB).
A. Shabana Azmi – SA and Smi started their careers almost at the same time and they had this rollercoaster relationship. SA apparently said they “were good colleagues who could never be friends.” Further, SA said, “She was born for the camera. It lingered over her face and she held it captive without the slightest effort. I felt both challenged and inspired by her as a co-actor. She was also very feminine and deeply traditional, at times easily intimidated. I think it’s these contradictions that were both her strength and her weakness. But it was also this that made her an artist who will always be spoken of when the finest actors of Indian cinema are counted.”
B. Prateik Babbar – I can write a LOT about the early days of PB and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip those. Have to mention that PB was raised by Smi’s mother.
As I end this, two things stand out about Smita Patil.
She is if not THE MOST, one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever come across.
It’s uncanny how her Reel and Real lives were so similar and so starkly different! Truth as they say, is stranger than fiction!
That’s about it. Thanks for indulging. Oh, who would you want to read about next?
1. All photos from Google / FB searches. I did not save the sources. Regret the laziness.
2. All info from online research that I did over a few days.
3. I don’t mean to slander. Am merely presenting what I found online. If I am wrong, please do point out.
A lot of this has come from various reports, press releases around the time Maithali Rao’s book on Smita Patil came out (on Smi’s 60 birth anniversary). It’s titled Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence. No, I have not read this.
PS: There are talks of someone making a biopic on her life. When it comes out, I will be there. The first day, first show. I am that smitten with her!
PPS: Secret wish to Universe – I’d love to work on crafting the biopic!
Other things that I did not know how to include in the essay?
Smita did not know English as a child. She learned it herself by reading Hadley Chase novels and through her friends
Smi would frequent FTII to see evening screenings with friends. In fact, she was so regular and frequent and commonplace, some people mistook her for a student/alumni.
Links that I read to come up with this essay? These are not in any order