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The encyclopaedia of expert advice

Life is short. Too short to climb every mountain, reinvent every wheel and make every mistake yourself. So why waste time when those who did it their way and did it well show us how to do it too.

brunch Updated: Dec 17, 2012 12:01 IST

Life is short. Too short to climb every mountain, reinvent every wheel and make every mistake yourself. So why waste time when those who did it their way and did it well show us how to do it too. Presenting...

Rani Mukherji
Acclaimed actress, the Khandala girl and bona fide Bollywood bombshell

Smiling wide, even on a bad day

Being in the public eye is no picnic. You have to always look good, smile, behave, put your best foot forward. You have to be just perfect every single time. For stars, it’s an occupational hazard, but anyone, in any profession can feel that pressure.

I learnt to deal with it on the job. If the brooding and the negativity gets too much, disconnect, immediately. The minute I start feeling low, I bake wonderful cakes that everyone loves to eat. They bust my stress and get me compliments. You could take a holiday. Or try pottery. Or just read a book, or catch a film. But do something that is unrelated to your stress. Dealing with adulation and criticism

Somewhere, some time someone will be saying or writing something that’s not going to be nice. Pay it no heed. Every time I read a rumour or a bad thing about me, I let it pass. It’s possible that the person was expected to write a negative story. Should they have checked? Of course. Should they have been a little sensitive? Absolutely. But they didn’t. Does it hurt? Sure it does. But should you let it affect you? No. Remember: the fact that they are saying things about you means you are important to them.

You cannot, cannot please everybody all the time. And no one really wants to hear your defence. Everything I do is scrutinised – from the dress I wear at a party to how I look in a film. I was panned for wearing a ‘nightie’ gown to Karan Johar’s party. Sure, it may have looked like a nightie. But hello, can I please also have a bad day? There are days when you’ll look or feel bloated, when you’re just not in the mood to wear a perfectly fitted gown. So what? You decide what you want to wear. Your spectacular could be someone else’s hideous. But I say, go with your spectacular!

On Finding Privacy

Who says actors can’t have a private life? Maybe it is a little messy to walk down Linking Road, but it isn’t difficult to catch a private dinner or an evening out. The trick is not to announce it to the world. I go out with family, friends or whoever. I just make sure am not telling the world where and when I’m going.

On Living your dream

Everything has a silver lining... No it’s not just something people say. I believe in it firmly. My first film flopped badly. For all practical purposes, I should have been written off. But both Aamir and Shah Rukh saw some trailer or some song of the film and recommended me to their directors, Vikram Bhatt for Ghulam and Karan Johar for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Chance? Could be, but it gave me a huge belief in positivity. Everything has a good side. Believe in it and you’ll believe in yourself. But be secure – you can’t hold on to the crown forever.


David Abraham
One half of acclaimed designer team Abraham & Thakoreon blending Indian with international

Look around you, work with what is around you, speak in the language you are most comfortable in, and don’t try to be something you cannot be – this forms the foundation of our design philosophy. In real terms, this translates into working with traditional handloom weaves but simplifying them to reflect contemporary times. Or in developing a block print or an embroidery pattern that draws from an Indian tradition yet expresses it in a clean and modern way to reflect our contemporary requirements.


Amit Buran
Vice chairman at Dabur India

On what customers want
Informality: Many of our customers are in their teens. So, engaging them at social networking sites makes sense. We asked for mocktails and cocktail recipes on our Facebook page. The response has been enormous.

Familiarity: Engage them at a site where they chill. We set up buyer points and stalls at malls, movies and restaurants they frequent, so they could try out new products and purchase what hooked them.

Someone who’s paying attention: When we began establishing new fruit juice categories, we realised our breakfast habits are different from those abroad. A majority of our buyers, for instance, want their orange juice sweeter. So, we brought out Real, which is sweeter than our Active range for the fitness conscious.

An Indian approach: Our tetra-packed coconut water and pomegranate juice is a hit only in India. We are even contemplating a Kokum-based concoction.

Smart pricing: Indian buyers are one of the most value-conscious in the world. No Indian CEO can forget this thumb rule: We will buy products only when we see value being accorded to us.

Hemant Oberoi
Corporate chef for the Taj hotels and grand executive chef of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai.

On serving every type of diner and still being true to yourself.
Give them something to remember: Every top hotel has access to the best techniques, the best ingredients and the best budgets. Distinguish yourself by giving people an experience they’ve never had. Even with great meals, ultimately, the memory you will take with you is not just how the food tasted but how it made you feel. Think beyond what you put on the plate.
Put your muse to work: Keep your eyes open to inspiration, even if it takes years before an idea actually sparks. I did a bicycle-themed New Year’s Eve party last year from a single memory of a bicycle mounted on a bar wall in Europe 20 years ago. Take in everything, you never know what will stick.

Think beyond the obvious: There is life beyond tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs and mutter paneer – even in an Indian restaurant. I’ve served food in tiffins, got female servers to feed finger-foods to a mehendi party and created caviar pani puri. And do it well, or don’t attempt it at all.

Don’t be a me-too: Think five steps ahead. Ask diners where they’ve holidayed, what restaurants they liked, which ones they skipped. So when they’re ready for the same food in India, you’ll have known all along.
Build your team: You learn as much from a trainee as from a senior chef or a customer.
Finally, know your basics: It’s the difference between a great combination and a disastrous fusion. To break the rules, you have to know the rules.

And your limits: Some things just can’t be done. I mean, can you imagine a tandoori goose liver or a fish dhansak?

Suhel Seth
Master marketer, author and man about town

On being in all the right places at once
At the end of the day, you just gotta love people. That’s what will make you want to go out and meet them, talk to them, engage them and remember them. Don’t make a fool of yourself by clamouring for invites. Don’t brag about the places you’ve been. Don’t name-drop. Be interested in people, in what they’re doing and what makes them tick. That’s what gets them to remember you and
invite you back.

Gautam Gambhir, Cricketer

On learning from every defeat

I flunked in Class X. It was terrible. I was quite a dude because of cricket and all of a sudden, the bubble burst. That’s when my mom told me that it is not how you start but how you finish. It was my first big lesson: one failure doesn’t mean that the game is over; it is just a point lost. And none of the failures means it is The End, it is a learning curve. God has his way of developing an individual and I feel failure is part of the process.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of different characters in a team game. You have to have people of different mindsets. Some players like Munaf Patel or our KKR coach Vijay Dahiya have strange but interesting way of looking at tight situations. Once you listen to how they summarise the situation, it’s amazing. At the workplace, you need people who are good stress-absorbers. And you can’t ignore clear, clever and consistent practice. There is no shortcut to the top. Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are one of the most talented cricketers but they don’t just turn up at and hit those sixes. They work bloody hard. When practising, even Sachin Tendulkar is always working on a specific area – his stance, backlift or just leaving a lot of balls outside the offstump. Most failures can be avoided by good practice. At the very least, it makes you confident that you have

prepared well.


Stand-up comedian and man with 28,000 Twitter followers

On making a noise with 140 characters

-People on the net like honest opinions, mostly because it’s one of the few places where you can get one that was not paid for (THIS ARTICLE SPONSORED BY LUX! THE #1 BABY OIL!)

-So have an opinion. State it honestly, eloquently, and in a voice that’s yours.

-Dnt typ lyk dis. Don’t retweet compliments. Be open to conversation, to debate, to attack. Don’t be afraid to defend yourself. The Internet’s full of bullies, but like all bullies, they have no idea what to do when you fight back with logic.


Waheeda Rehman

Actress and eternal beauty

Accept your age: With age, you grow as a person, so learn to understand yourself.

Say no to black: Don’t dye your hair. When you’re 70, everyone knows you’re grey, so why hide it? Leave it be. It’s more graceful.

Act your age: Don’t try to look younger than you are – even if you’re not an actor.

Keep it clean: Don’t use makeup when it isn’t needed. I still don’t use anything but kajal, unless I’m shooting or have a big event.

Be calm: Yoga, walks and meditation help a lot. I’ve been doing them for years. If you’re calm from within, it always shows

Lisa Rasy

Actress, model, host, breathtaking beauty, brand ambassador for Rado, social activist, and proud cancer survivor

On staring disease in the face and laughing

Living with a disease or even accepting that you are suffering from one is very personal. But if you are honest about it and have a sense of humour then your disease, however serious, starts looking less grim. It’s how I overcame multiple myeloma (a cancer of the white blood cells). From the time I was told about my condition, I was honest about it, not just to myself, but to others. I spoke openly about it and in return I got immense support from friends and strangers alike. you accept your disease, it gives you a more positive attitude and the ability to find a greater purpose in life. Instead of a ‘Why me?’ state of mind, you look at life as a learning experience, an adventure. Spend time with people who make you happy, do things you always wanted to. Be like a child, eager to take life as it comes. Laugh your worries away and look for a purpose during those difficult times. I found mine in spreading awareness about cancer all over the world by speaking about it and supporting cancer research.I’m cured now. But I don’t forget that living with cancer has made me a calmer, more centred and grateful person. Today, I don’t take anything for granted and I have learnt to appreciate every moment of joy.

I met my spouse after getting cured, yet, his wedding vows said, "Even if you lose your long gorgeous hair, I will still love you". I still feel that you shouldn’t have expectations from anyone. Don’t give the power of your life to anyone. Believe in yourself. Lastly, prevention is always better than cure. Get tested regularly, get a second opinion and consider every option.


R Balki and gauri shinde

On being married to someone in the same profession

I don’t think it is professional life versus personal life. It’s one life and whatever you’re doing that you want to share with your partner. On English Vinglish, she was working on the film, I on some parts of production. My work wasn’t hers. We suggest things to each other but it’s not interfering, because finally it’s one person’s call. You may tell the person if you feel something is wrong, but the other person may have a very good reason for doing what they’re doing.
The best rule to have is to not have any rules. Don’t follow these theories of let’s-leave-work-outside home. I can’t see how the mind can suddenly stop working when you reach home.
Work is the most interesting part of your life, what’s wrong with that? If your holiday is more interesting, then obviously you don’t discuss work. But if you’re discussing work on a holiday, accept it. Accept whatever is more interesting.
A lot of couples meet at work, and get together because of work. The same work cannot become evil and cannot come in the way of the relationship.

We rarely stop talking about work. It’s our passion. From the beginning, we’ve never overstepped the line. We’re both very strong-headed. We discuss but never interfere.
When you’re required, be around. Otherwise just do your own thing.
If work is your common passion, it’ll keep it going.
– Saudamini Jain

Rashmi Bansal

On quitting the rat race to pursue your passion

1 It’s everyone’s duty to be the best in what they do. But it’s is important to know what you want to do. If this is still a big question, keep a daily record of one thing you loved doing that day. It could be something small – perhaps you felt good helping someone. And over time you may realise that helping people is what makes you happy.

2 Or set aside some time every day to sit silently and quieten your mind. You’ll be amazed at what your inner voice tells you when you actually listen.

3Have a time-bound plan. Promise yourself that you will make the leap or resign from your current job or start a new chapter of your life on a particular day. And then stick to it.

4Keep some money to tide you over. Especially in the beginning. Especially if you’re breaking into a creative profession.

5If your family is apprehensive, ask them for three years to prove yourself (even if this may not actually be your plan). But realise that there are a lot more opportunities, more places that will hire, more assignments today than in your parents’ time.

6 Don’t let naysayers pull you down. People come to me saying they want to try this or that profession and ask, "What is the scope of it?" But no could have predicted the scope of writing when I decided to be a writer in 1993. No one knew how much would change in the industry and the Indian reader. If you’re intensely passionate about what you want to do, a path will open up. Don’t lose heart. Something, someone, somewhere will come forward and help.

7Get over your fear of the unknown with perseverance and discipline. You’d have needed these traits even if you were at your old job, but this time around, there is no boss to blame and no company policy to criticise. If you’re still underperforming, it’s only be because of your inner drive.

8Don’t expect success on the first day – but make sure you have had some growth in six months. Keep positive and stay motivated. You have to believe that it is going to work out for you. It may not be a straight path, but success will eventually come.

9Keep yourself involved in your dream. So you want to be an actor? It’s not going to happen overnight (and the Bollywood dream doesn’t come true for everyone, regardless of talent). But there will always be work – in TV, at workshop, in direction, in advertising. If you want to pursue music, set aside half your time for songwriting or composing. Use the rest to find work within the field – jingles, music lessons, whatever. what you love to do; only then will you do everything with passion and it will fall into place.


Shazahn Padamsee

Bollywood star and daughter of theatre legend and ad veteran, Alyque Padamsee

On coming out of Daddy’s shadow
For me it wasn’t a choice – I always knew I wanted to do something different from the rest of my family. I was always a bit of a rebel. I was lucky that my family was cool with me pursuing whatever I wanted.
But if your parents are adamant that you follow in the family mould, sit them down, have a heart-to-heart chat, and let them see how dedicated you are to following a different path. Chances are, they will relent.
But if it doesn’t happen, stand up for your rights anyway. Everyone is entitled to live their own life and fulfil their own dreams.
Finally, if things don’t work out in the profession you’ve chosen, don’t be afraid to move on. At the end of the day, you must be happy with your choices, and the way they turned out.

Sushant Singh
Actor and one-time penniless struggler

On making every rupee count
Work hard and don’t be lazy. It’s old advice. But it’s the only way to keep money flowing.
Be prudent. Your money has to last a whole month. Leave frivolous purchases for the end of the month, not the start.
Spend on your needs, not your wants because wants are never ending. Today you’ll want an iPad2, tomorrow, something else. Need, not greed should be your motto.
It is also important to check where you spend most your money and on whom. Fuel? Restaurants? Girlfriend? Trim accordingly.
Remember that the only way to make every rupee count is by not counting them at all. If you run
after money, you’ll always lose the race. So, stop now.

Investments can be tricky. If you’re clueless (like I am), get an advisor to steer you right.


From HT Brunch, December 16

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