How to improve your body language

Ten tip on improving your body language

Watch any great and effective speaker; the body language plays a key role in our communication. Body language includes non-verbal communication such as body posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements.

Depending on the circumstances and who you talk to, the body language will differ. However, here are some important tips on how to improve your body language for effective communication:

1. Make eye contact, but don’t stare: Make eye contact while speaking or listening but not too much. Too much eye contact may look like staring and may distract the other person. You can find a happy medium with practice.

2. Relax your body, don’t fidget: Relax, don’t be nervous. Maintain a relaxed pose instead of all stiffened up. Avoid or minimize fidgety movement and nervous ticks. Do not shake your leg or tap your fingers against some surface.

3. Maintain some distance: In many cultures, people get too close or even all touchy feely. If other person starts to step back, you know that you are invading their space. You can lean forward to make a point or listen, but don’t be in other person’s face. Continue reading “How to improve your body language”

Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad

The big red letters on the front of our school used to read, in two languages:
In Punjabi: “Vidhya insaan di teesari akh hai!”
In Hindi: “Vidhya insaan ki teesari aankh hai!”

Meaning: Education (or knowledge) is the 3rd eye for a person.

Growing up, we all knew that some of the rules should not and could not be questioned; rules like:

  • Respect your books. Stepping on a book, even by mistake is a sin. A book never belongs under your feet.
  • Education is your priority number one.
  • Respect your teachers….

Continue reading “Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad”

Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases

Hinglish: Indian English lost-in-translations abroad – Idioms and phrases from India

“What is your good name, sir?”
“It is nice knowing you, Steve Ji!”
“Hey Boss, are you enjoying the fair?”
“Simply! Enjoying to the maximum!”
“How was the movie?”

“I will give you a ring over the week-end.”
“OK boss”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this conversation as long as both parties are on the same page. The exchange above is perfectly understandable between two Indians in certain Indian regions.

English in India is spoken very differently as compared to the same language overseas. Our Indian mother-language and the grammar has significant impact on English – taught as a second or third language throughout the country. Sometime, the Indian English – due to the influence of Hindi and other local languages – is also called Hinglish.

Just like the conversation above, ‘Hinglish’  is quite common within Indian communities, ( “Tired, kya?” = “Are you tired?”). There is no harm, no foul if both sides understand it.

However, we tend to include some ‘Hinglish’ even when talking to American or English audience abroad. That is where we run into trouble, some miscommunication to say the least.

Many English words, Idioms and Phrases have different meaning in India or are used only in India. When used overseas, they don’t feel right or mean something entirely different.

Here are some of the common idioms and phrases, and their closest (or alternatives) usage in proper English when outside India:

What is your good name?: A polite way of asking someone’s name; it comes from translation of Hindi phrase – Shubh naam (good name). Politeness still intact, ‘May I know your name’ or ‘You name please?’ is more appropriate in non-Indian settings.

Eve teasing: It refer to sexual harassment of females, or taunting them – as in schools or colleges or in bazaars etc.

Poor Joke (pj): ‘Poor joke’ is not a commonly used phrase, a more common way of conveying the same thing is ‘bad joke’!

Time-pass: Relates to doing something trivial or of little importance – something that does not matter. ‘Nothing important’ is one of the many alternative way of responding, instead of ‘time-pass’.

Time-waste: This is worse than ‘time-pass’, doing something you don’t even enjoy. ‘It is a waste of time’ is a similar expression often used in Western countries.

Himalayan blunder:Very big mistake, a mistake of the size of Himalaya mountain. Blunder generally means ‘big’ mistake..may not need too many adjectives that are not commonly used overseas. Continue reading “Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases”

‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!

Fading racial bias and prejudice among the younger generations abroad!

“Rupa, you are here!,” a pretty little girl in red exclaimed the obvious; her curly blond hair bounce as she jumps with joy.
“Happy Birthday, Courtney!” said Rupa, handing over the gift bag. The mothers exchanged a smile, and a hello; and then moved inside to make room for the next young guest arriving with another gift bag…

The kids’ party venue – The Jumping jack, is chaotic, with kids  on a mission of fun and frolic. They run from one game-stand to another; trying every machine and trampoline. All kinds of gizmos and play-stations span the open halls, colorful bright lights adding to the joyous ambiance.

Every few minutes, a new kid arrives with a new gift. And, the ‘birthday girl’ – Courtney – runs to the welcome area to greet the newly arrived friend. Smiles, giggles, chuckles and innocent greeting fill the air:
“Hi, how did you get here?”
“I didn’t know you were coming!”
“Did you see the big pile of my gifts?”
“You are here too???”…….a lively chatter fills the air.

In the play area, a clear pattern starts to emerge. The kids are getting on with what they are good at – playing. Boys are crowding the ‘boyish games’ – target shooting, hoops, gun battle, Sponge Bob… They are running around – one play are to another, bragging and showing off….And, making sure that there is someone to witness their great performance.

The little girls have their own things going, mostly with the girly stuff. The ‘mechanical pony rides’, ‘matching games’, ‘the make-up show’ and pink swirly slides…… And, the adventurous ones are taking up on the boys, playing hoops and shoots. There are no barriers, no rules, no bars. Everybody is a busy in their fun world – no worries, no care!

Every kid seem to have a purpose – to have as much fun as possible. It does not take a whole lot to please them, to cheer them. Life at it best! Continue reading “‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!”

Thanksgiving – More than Family, Food and a Prayer!

Happy Thanksgiving


On 4th Thursday of every November, America celebrates Thanksgiving Day. The schools are closed for a better part of this week; most of the businesses close Thursday though Sunday. Families prepare for days to get together and celebrate this festive time.

The American Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins back to 1621 when newly arrived Pilgrims from England held a harvest feast after a successful crop growing season. For more on the history of the holiday, you can take a look at Wikipedia or search online…There is a whole lot of historical background attached to the holiday.

Yes, it is a harvest festival. Over the years, however, it has become a ‘Turkey Day’ – every feast for every family-gathering is supposed to include baked or roasted turkey. Thanksgiving with Turkey is like Christmas without presents, Diwali without lights. That is a part the tradition.

Cooking a 20 pound turkey is an adventure in itself. For amateurs, there are live help-lines where you can call for help – toll-free from your kitchen, if cooking is not going the way you expected; the nice ladies on the other end of the phone are always full of tips and tricks to help you out. This – ‘the turkey tip line’ – is one of the businesses they cannot outsource to India or China, at least not yet! 🙂

Thanksgiving is the time to thank, as you can tell by the name itself – duh! It is time to thank God, it is a time to thank family and friends. You thank God for all the good things and good karma bestowed on you. You thank friends and family for their support, for their love, and for standing with you through thick and thin. So no doubt, there are big family gatherings, a lots of feasting, a lot of thanks and gratitude going around….and yes, some praying… A a weekend full love and compassion, and yes, full of feasts and parties… Continue reading “Thanksgiving – More than Family, Food and a Prayer!”

How to improve your communication skills

Communications – the ability to share and exchange ideas and thoughts – consist of a wide range of skills. You cannot be a good communicator just by being a better speaker, or just by being a good listener.

And, if the conversation or exchange is not in your mother tongue (the first language) – such as some one from India living abroad – it takes some extra efforts to be good at it. For improving your communications skills, here are some of the main areas to consider :

Know what you are talking about: A communications or an exchange of ideas or the conversation is hollow and empty if it has no substance. Subject-matter knowledge helps with a meaningful discourse. And, if it is just a friendly ‘chat about nothing’ – the small talk – that can also be improved, just read on!

Be a good listener: Listening is the first and foremost part of the communication. It helps with understanding the topic of discussion (‘Know what you are talking about’ – the step above). A good listener also earns the respect or the speakers and is always in-tune with the discussion. For details on improving this skill, refer to the article titled ‘how to improve the listening skills.’ The importance of listening is highlighted in a separate article linked here.

Improve verbal communications: Along with listening skills, equally important is the ability to deliver the message – the talking part. A good command of the language, a good vocabulary and ability to effectively speak are the desired attributes for being good at verbal communication. Those with mother-tongue (the first language) different than the communication language often struggle in this sector. If English is your second language, or if you need to improve your accent in the new language, make sure to consider the tips and suggestion in the article titled, ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent.Continue reading “How to improve your communication skills”

Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills

At home or overseas – Importance of communication skills

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”~ Lee Iacocca

“They don’t seem to fully understand me”
“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?”
“How come no body is listening to me?”
“Is it my accent that is limiting my range of communication?”

Your ability to communicate defines you as a person. You can be the most knowledgeable person around, but if you cannot share your ideas – if you cannot communicate – your knowledge may not mean much.

One of the main hurdles in adapting to a new place or becoming a part of the new culture is the difficulty of integrating into the new society. Our ability to effectively communicate with other is very important in adjusting to a new place, or a new culture. In fact, our success or failure in any walk of life often depends on how well we communicate with others. Any business, any workplace, any relation, any family, any society… built around communication.

In the basic sense, a communication takes place when two or more people share or exchange information, ideas, gossips, knowledge etc. The main ways of communications include:
Verbal or oral communications: This is where we talk and listen. The ideas are exchanged, the rumors are discussed, a mother sings a lullaby to the little one, a leader delivers her vision to the followers…..Most of our daily communications are oral, unless you are a writer hiding in the basement – writing away your ideas or fantasies, waiting to be discovered. The oral communication almost always involves personal contact with the audience, with some exceptions such as talking on the phone.
This is the area – the verbal exchange – where most of us struggle in a new place or in a new culture. The verbal communications are often different place-to-place, even if the same language is spoken. Every place has its own ways of communicating:

  • local slang
  • local style
  • local dialect
  • use of local terms that an outsider may not understand

Continue reading “Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills”

12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command

Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad

“Are you enjoying the movie?”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.

There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations. 🙂

English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind 🙂 ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:

1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.

For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”

Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
Continue reading “12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command”

Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice

This is a guest post from Vanamali Thotapalli, sharing thoughts and views on Karma, Rebirth and Life

Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice – no more Hell, thank God! This can be proven by the following examples:

A child continues to misbehave in a store despite the admonitions of his parents. Eventually he breaks a product. Do the parents simply forgive the child? Then the child learns nothing. Or do you give him a beating? Use physical violence against a child? In the olden days this was quite common, but today this action might get you jail time! So, what do present-day parents do? Today we talk to the child, make him see why his actions were wrong, have him apologize to the store owner, and then make him do odd jobs to help pay for the cost of the product. This way the child learns the right lesson, imparted by loving parents using non-violent methods. This is essentially Karma and Rebirth in action! If a Hindu were to commit an error but was unable to correct it before his death, he is given another chance to do so in the next life. He is not going to be physically punished, but he is not going to get away with his error either.

A second example: A driver makes an error on the highway resulting in horrific consequences. He dies; the occupants of the other cars survive but endure terrible injuries. They go through multiple surgeries; some of them lose their life-savings and houses, and are forced to live in home-less shelters. Some religions teach that God forgives everyone, but can one be so callous as to enter heaven knowing that the victims of the accident are suffering? This brings to mind some of the henchmen of Hitler who escaped to countries like Argentina and lived a happy life while their victims were left to deal with the pain and suffering.

What if God gave you a choice? Either go to heaven or be reborn and maybe help the victims of the car accident or others in a similar situation? Which option would you choose? For me, honestly, there is only one option. Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice. Continue reading “Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice”

Spiritual but not religious

Spirituality without religion is a growing trend!

Every religion is based on the principles that cater to the welfare of its followers. Most of the religions provide a guidance or knowledge -the enlightenment- on how to get closer to the God. The religion and spirituality often go hand-in-hand. The religion provides commandments or ‘rules’ on how to be a better human being; a basic foundation of spirituality.

However, there is trend amongst modern generations of finding ways to be spiritual without being religious. According to a Newsweek Beliefnet poll in USA, about 24% of the population identifies itself as ‘Spiritual but not religious.’

Rather than looking for God, more and more of us are looking for ‘how to improve ourselves’ or ‘how to be better human being’ or ‘how to find peace in life’. If you look around, more and more of us are searching for a balance in life.

In today’s society, everybody is very busy – may be too busy for no reason, but that is a topic for some other time. Gone are the days when going on pilgrimage was part of ‘thing to do’. Instead, most of us are looking for some answers in our own backyard, within our own soul. Rather than saying an hour-long prayer, without knowing the meaning of the words in it, the focus is shifting to self improvement – being a better person.

Our priorities are shifting with time. Instead of looking for ‘enlightenment’ or searching for ways to guarantee a place in the ‘heaven’, the focus is on the present life and what comes with it – the daily challenges, the daily dilemmas, the daily rewards, the daily karmaContinue reading “Spiritual but not religious”

How to change a perception

How to change others’ perceptions about you!

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” ~ Warren Buffett

“My boss thinks I am lazy!”
“Well, you are always last to the office in the morning.”
“But, I am always last to leave in the evening.”
“Yeah, but she is already gone by then, she wouldn’t know that.”
“I seriously need to do something to change her perception about me!”

Perception is you mind’s eye:
A perception is how we ‘see’ something or someone in our own mind. The common beliefs or assumptions play a role in the existing perception. Based on many factors including social and environmental surroundings, this is the way our brain ‘perceives’ something or someone. True or false, a strong perception is no less than the real truth. This is how we see things in our ‘mind’s eye’.
Once established in our brain, a perception becomes a part of our thinking, a part of our life; it is hard to change.

How to change the perceptions:
So, how do you change others’ perception about you?
Some perceptions are easy to change. For example, in the conversation above, the boss has a perception about one of her employees of being lazy. That perception can be easily changed by being proactive, by showing up to the office before anybody else does EVERYDAY. Note that to change a perception, you have to be consistent -again and again.

The most effective way to change a perception is to prove it – the perception- wrong consistently. Show everybody that what they believe is very different from the reality. Here are a few common approaches for changing a perception

Create awareness: Let everyone around you know that what they perceive is not true. Share the facts; share the information to prove your side. Nobody denies the facts – unless you are dealing with someone whose mind is already made-up no matter what; in that case, it is not a perception but a deep rooted bias and prejudice. Continue reading “How to change a perception”

The problem with Positive Thinking!

Theory of ‘Positive Thinking’ is fundamentally flawed!

Everybody is preaching ‘Positive Thinking’ these days. You probably receive these fancy quotes and messages in your email. Positive thinking is a fashion now.

Imagine that you are very sick and every part of your body hurts; you are in constant pain, and have no energy to even move. However, a medicine-man tells you to keep smiling and stay positive….
A single mother loses her job, her only means of income for her family. A motivational speaker tells her not to worry, not to be depressed; …. Everything will be okay…..
You are falling off a cliff. Well, don’t worry about your skull about to be crushed. Think positive!!….

Are you kidding me?
Stay positive and be optimistic all the time? Keep smiling even when I know that things are bad, and about to get worse?…

It seems like we are trying to find every excuse in the book to avoid the reality. Instead of facing the true situation, the advice is to ignore it –‘look at the beautiful sun-rise, isn’t it beautiful? Don’t worry even if you are not doing well! Just admire the nature- the moon, the stars, the rainbow…!!’
How could you think about the sun-rise if your own world is tumbling down?

The sad truth is that the reality of our mortal existence does not guarantee a rosy season all the time. Along with the sunny days, we are bound to encounter some storms, may be many more storms and cloudy days. That is how it is; just look around yourself, you can find many examples in your everyday life.

The fact is, you cannot stay positive all the time. You and I – all of us- are bound to go through highs and lows of life. So is the nature of the world; so is the life.

We – all of us – always have something to worry about. Even the kings worry constantly. Bigger thrones have bigger problems – more worries. That is how the world works. You cannot be happy ALL the time. If you are happy all the time, underline this – there is something wrong with your head. Continue reading “The problem with Positive Thinking!”

Life after Diwali

How to handle the after-Diwali blues! 🙁

“The past is behind, learn from it.
The future is ahead, prepare for it.
The present is here, live it.”
~ Thomas Monson

The Diwali celebrations are over. It is about time to clean-up the remains of the burnt candles, put away the party supplies, tidy up the kitchen and rest of the house….

The left-over sweets and treats are disappearing, at least the tastier ones. The festivities are over; back to reality!

For those of us who are lucky to get Diwali holidays or time off, the vacation is over. The kids have to focus back on the school and deal with the burden of homework once again. The grown-up are heading back to work; the boring and monotonous routine of 9 to 5 jobs resumes. It is a struggle every morning to get out of the bed and face the new day.

Welcome to the real world again, the daily grind!

With the winter knocking on the door, it is not uncommon to go through this depressing cycle and mood swings after Diwali celebrations.

Now, how can you boost your spirits again? What can we do to minimize the Diwali nostalgia?

Well, to help deal with this post Diwali syndromes, there are a few adjustments we can make in our thinking and the attitude. To help with the after Diwali blues, here are some of the changes you may want to focus on:

1. Thank God it is quiet again: Think about it. Now that it is all over, you can finally take a break from all the running around. No more chaos; no more decorations to worry about; no more cooking the special feasts. The deafening sound of loud music and fireworks is a past history. Continue reading “Life after Diwali”

How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad

10 tips on how to overcome the overseas culture shock

The overseas culture shock is common for anyone traveling or migrating abroad. Some of us are quick to adapt, willing to accept the change. Others hate it and don’t like customs or traditions of living a life different that what they are used to growing up.
The fact is that it is not a matter of one or two days; if you plan to live abroad, you should be willing to adapt to what comes with it – the new culture, a different society and an entirely different everyday life.

Adaptation is not a quick or overnight thing; getting used to the new place can take a long time. However, here are 10 tips on how to overcome or minimize the culture shock abroad:

1. Accept the change: Change is part of life; it is a part of the journey. Don’t resist something just because it is different. Give it a try. Millions and millions before you have gone through the same experience abroad. You may actually like the ‘new you’ if you try.

2. Learn the local language: This step is very important, actually the most important. If you really want to adapt to the new place, learn the local language, the local way of communicating. This includes getting used to the new accent and losing the old accent; the local way of pronunciation and the local slang – the whole nine yards. And, don’t forget to learn the art of small talk in a new society.

3. Venture out and try first hand: Don’t isolate yourself from the local culture. Expose yourself to the local common places where social life breathes. The shopping mall, the hair salon, the barber shop, the community center, the local parks….. – go be a part of the day-to-day outdoor life. The best way to adapt is by trying it firsthand. Continue reading “How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad”

15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances” ~Oscar Wilde

The first impression is what others perceive or think of you as soon as they first see you. The first impression matters; it is part of human nature to judge a book by its cover.
So, what can you do to leave a good and lasting first impression? Here are a few tips:
1. Be punctual: Be on time, always. Let the other person or other party know if you will be running late. Making others wait is considered rude, and it leaves a bad first impression!
2. Appearance and Dress code: Dress the way you want to present yourself for a given occasion. Your appearance – head to toe – matters. It includes the dress, the hair, the body-language…
3. Introduce yourself: Introduce yourself first, shake hand warmly. A hug is okay if you are sure that the other person won’t mind, or if it is a part of the culture or tradition.
4. Be confident, but calm: Don’t be nervous. Stay calm and collected, but carry yourself with confidence. The idea is not to come across as over-confident or trying too hard. Continue reading “15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression”