A strange, surreal life: is it all a dream?

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

My life has taken on a strange dream-like quality nowadays. In fact, it seems to get more and more surreal, in ways I cannot fully explain. I used to think that my childhood had that abstract quality about it – you know, in which the specifics jump out, but the overall image is a bit fuzzy. That’s exactly what my adulthood feels like. I can pinpoint specific incidents and experiences that prompt a certain response, but the overall experience is somewhat vague. Life seems absurd even as I live it. Not absurd in a laughable way but absurd in that I can’t seem to access it despite being in it. There’s something inaccessible and unreachable about the present, isn’t there?

I wake up and do the things I’m supposed to do. I do the things I want to do. I love fiercely and hope wildly… but I still feel slightly distant. Maybe my childhood feels so solid and real because it’s in the past. I’ve already lived it and can interpret it whichever way I like, revisiting it often, changing little details here and there every time in my recounting. Maybe the past is the only thing that can be changed, and the present is as yet static, fixed.

There are moments when I feel I’m far removed from my life. Take today, for example. I was singing carols (it’s Christmas Day) in my local church in Cambridge, England, while quickly replying to a message on my phone about whether I’ve thought about freezing my eggs. Doesn’t that make for a weird picture? I go to the church here every year because I grew up singing carols in my convent-school church in India. I know the lyrics by heart. I feel nostalgic, at home. But this time, someone wished me a good holiday “all the way up to the Epiphany” – and I blinked blankly because I had no clue what that meant. He carried on, asking me where I was from, and I started to feel slightly uncomfortable at the fact that I look so evidently different. I immediately felt that familiar feeling of being a slight misfit. Anyway, I was reading about egg freezing because, as a married woman with a ticking raging biological clock, I am supposed to be thinking about reproduction and raising a family. Carols and egg-freezing: I could not reconcile this bizarre image to a definition, to anything I could recognize.

Perhaps my life has taken on this strange, dream-like quality because I’ve changed so much in the last couple of years that I don’t know myself anymore. I never really felt like a “whole” person, I was always a jumble of pieces scattered about. A couple of years ago I started therapy in an attempt to stitch these pieces together – like a patchwork quilt, if you will. But I didn’t have the opportunity to see the impact of therapy until recently, when I lost my job.

As I sat across the table from the person who had to break the news to me – I spoke calmly and carefully. After everything was sorted, during a more informal conversation, I said to him (but maybe more to myself), “I’m not shattered.” These words were true, but I didn’t really recognize the voice that said it. We talked through my options and he offered to recommend me to other jobs. I was gracious, he was kind, and it was all professional. I told myself that it was the initial shock that was helping me behave in such a composed and collected manner. There was going to be a Dark Phase after this, when I would break down and collapse in a mass of self-doubt and self-pity and take to Glassdoor to bitterly rant about the unfair layoffs. But 10 days later, I seem to be doing quite all right. Miraculously, I’m still all pieced together.

I’m not shattered, I had said to him. I wonder why I chose that word – maybe it was because for the first time, I felt like all the broken pieces of me had come together. The minute I was told that my job was at risk, my body and mind recognized it as something that needed all parts of me to come together as a whole and deal with this tough situation. I had never felt so confident and self-assured in my life. Who was this person? Was it still me, but new and improved? Wow, I felt like I must celebrate my progress, but I was a bit scared of the new unflustered version of me.

Perhaps my life has taken on this strange, dream-like quality because I’m frequently playing a game of Memory in my head. When I stepped out of the office after my last day, I was overcome and blinked back tears, wondering if I would remember what this day felt like, what this feeling felt like. Would I remember the big brown maple leaf that the autumn wind threw in my face?

I’d checked the weather that morning: “Gusty winds.” But no gust could blow me over, nossir, I told myself as I marched towards the bus stop. I noticed a row of pine trees I’d never noticed before. Pine trees. An image flashed in my head – of pine trees in Himachal, Manali, where I had gone paragliding with my dad.  I remember the exact words “I’m flying!” that I had yelled out to the tiny figures below me on the snow-covered slopes of Manali. And that scene from colourful, vibrant India seemed so vivid, so technicolour, so close to me, so much more real that the pine trees swaying outside the grey hospital building in grey wintry UK. Would I remember this day with as much clarity a few years later?

Playing the Memory game – the sun rises over the railway tracks, Cambridge and Bangalore, taken 8 years apart. 

I like mapping new feelings and emotions to something I’ve felt before, a sort of in-built pattern recognition tool, possibly as a way to help my brain to figure out how best to process it and provide an outcome. When there’s a new pattern I don’t recognize, my brain rushes to protect me, forces me to step back. When there’s a Memory card I’ve seen before, there’s an aha! moment. I know how to deal with this one. I have navigated this before. But if there’s a new card, I close it and put it back. I’m secretly delighted to be able to feel a new feeling, but I need to see more of these experiences to train the algorithm for an ideal response.

Perhaps my life has taken on this strange, dream-like quality because I simply can’t make sense of the world anymore. I sometimes have conversations with people who seem perfectly nice and sorted and suddenly they say something that seems fundamentally wrong (hint: political views) and I’m thrown off guard. On the rare days I decide to read the news, it seems to be Surreal Amplified. In India, a Hindu lady was banned from entering a temple because she ate beef. In the UK, a neonatal care nurse killed newborns. This is all ridiculous, so I go to Instagram to seek the solace of artists and musicians. The first thing I see is an artist whom I used to admire calling someone a “piece of faecal matter” because the commenter did not agree with said artist’s view on the Palestine conflict. Said artist has also proclaimed himself to be peace-loving and anti-hate-speech but will not miss a chance to exhibit moral superiority and use divisive, nasty language in the same breath. Huh? I move on. I notice a celebrity in a lovely saree. I click to see where saree is from but in the comments I find a barrage of body-shaming dialogue including names of choice animals. What on earth is going on?  Surely this can’t be real.

Perhaps this strange dream-like quality is brought on by me living in the UK. Since I moved eight years ago, my life has been divided into a great big Before and After. At first, I was determined to live in two places mentally at once, and I did it successfully for five years. When I decided I could no longer carry that burden, I was shocked to find that I was doing absolutely fine –  even better – by committing to my current life. I never thought I’d be eating Digestives with the same gusto as I ate Parle-G, or saying “Cheers” as often and easily as “Chalo”. I feel the same guilt as an NRI as I did as an Indian resident in India – the guilt that comes with the passion to do something but having that passion dwarfed by the enormity and complexity of the country’s problems. Ah, this conflict of staying suspended in between the home you come from and the one you build. Never gets old. All adding to the peculiarity.

Perhaps my life is becoming more and more dream-like as I’ve learned to rely not on people but on the predictability of nature (how ironic). I know that the horse chestnut will grow leaf-buds in spring and that the sun will come out after the rains. As a defence mechanism, I’ve learned to be wary of depending on humans, and I refuse to admit how much I need people around. I’ve learned that music and art and books and nature can not only be refuges for escapists like me but can also be steady unflinching companions, capable of offering comfort in the loneliness of times. I remember places and incidents and even people by the song I was listening to at that time, a bird I spotted, or a book I was reading. They’re very similar to the details we remember about a dream.


I spent a week in Cornwall on a solo trip and this picture of a gull above my head on a bus stop is the detail that I’ll never forget  

Perhaps my life has taken on this strange dream-like quality because it’s so different from what I imagined it would be. I thought I’d be doing life-changing work, juggling a high-impact job with two angelic children, living in the same city as my parents, have aprons neatly folded in the kitchen, and possibly even having a pet dog that my dog-whisperer husband would eventually love more than me.  But now I am, mostly by choice, pet-less, without children, not living in India. I can’t claim to be changing lives, and I’m living quite far away from my parents. There is one apron hung clumsily on the handle of the kitchen door but my t-shirts and pajamas have thick dustings of flour on them. My imagination was so real, and reality is so different from what I had imagined, that I’m taking time to catch up. And perhaps that’s why it’s impossible to be in the present – I feel like by the time we catch up, it has changed.

And so I live my life in the in-betweens – the space between who I was and who I am becoming. And perhaps this is how life is supposed to be – weird and absurd, with the rare moments of clarity carrying us through. Perhaps it’s supposed to have all the filters that give it that dreamy effect: sepia tones, grainy paper, a few things in sharp focus with the rest largely blurred. The present will always be out of reach;  we’re constantly moving forward. I think of how peaceful I feel when I’m on a train, in between destinations. I suppose that extends to life to. Aren’t we all simply in between a beginning and an end? And, perhaps all of this is really just a dream.

—————————————

The Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland.  I spent a lot of time wandering around this majestic, massive sculpture, which has 600 steel pipes arranged at specific heights. Absurd but beautiful. 

Content design

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Context
Kolabtree is an open talent platform that helps businesses hire freelance scientists. Users can browse a list of experts and directly contact them.

The challenge
Build trust with potential customers by displaying testimonials across important touchpoints

The solution and my role 

Using analytics (GA) and heatmaps (Lucky Orange) I studied the user journey to identify touchpoints at which it would potentially be most effective to showcase testimonials. I reached out to customers for testimonials, which we then started testing across touchpoints such as banner ads, newsletters, landing pages, and logged-in dashboards. We customized these testimonials based on industry and business size on various pages. The testimonials helped users self-identify and feel like they’re in the right place, which encouraged them to work with us.

See example: https://www.kolabtree.com/solutions/small-businesses

Adding the testimonials to the search pages

How experimenting helped me find my purpose

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Hi, my name is Ramya and I’m a comics creator and content marketer from India, currently living in the UK. Over the last decade or so, I’ve had a really fun and interesting career path that has changed direction multiple times. I’ve agonized over finding purpose, finding that one thing that made me happy, finding something that made me feel worthy, that made me feel like I was contributing something useful to the world, and something that paid the bills. Very tricky!

One thing I’ve learned from all of this agonizing is that it’s okay to change your mind. If you don’t like where you are or if you aren’t feeling happy or fulfilled, it’s okay to try something else. Like many of us, I’ve glorified the idea of having a single purpose or a single career path and have envied people who’ve thrown themselves into all-consuming missions.

But now I know that it’s okay to have multiple purposes, varied interests, and be brave enough to chase them. Experimenting is a good purpose to have.

The journey

I’d like to share with you a little bit about my story. When I was in school, I wanted to be a designer. I was hugely involved in arts and music and writing, and in fact, I was working towards becoming a designer. This changed in the 10th grade when I went to watch something called a beating heart surgery that was being broadcast live from a hospital. There was this cardiac surgeon who was holding the beating heart of his patient in his hand, and he said, “If you want to touch someone’s heart, here’s one way to do it.” I was 15 and I had stars in my eyes.

I ran home… easily impressed!… I ran home to my parents and declared that I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon. And they were really alarmed because they said, you have to make so many sacrifices and you’re gonna have to give up, maybe give up, arts and music and things like that. And I said that I was prepared to make all these sacrifices, and so I coached for two years in an institute where I was studying for about 12 hours a day.

After year and a half, I decided that this wasn’t sustainable and this was not something I wanted to do for the next 20 years. And so I changed gear and decided to do a four year degree in engineering. I studied biotechnology, which I really liked, and at the end of my degree, I wanted to make biofuel and save the world.

But all of the opportunities were outside of India and I wasn’t prepared to leave the country back then. And I looked at all my friends and all of them were studying for an MBA and I said, oh yes, that sounds like a good option. So I ended up trying to do an MBA and I dropped out of it within five weeks and I was, I think I was the only person in the university who had both a freshest party and a fair party within a few weeks.

But then I worked with a publishing house for about five and a half years. I was an editor of science and wildlife books, which was amazing because it spark an interest in, uh, in travel writing. And I freelanced as a travel writer for a while. It was during this time that I set up The Tap, which started out as a comic strip, then became a sort of side hustle, and today it’s been a labour of love for about 12 years.

I then decided that I wanted something more creative, and so I moved on to advertising. This lasted only for a short while because much as I loved the energy and the environment, I just couldn’t take the late nights. So I made the best decision ever, which was to freelance as a creative independent professional, and I worked as a cartoonist, a content writer, a copywriter… at some point I was offering website design services. And I really enjoyed the variety of projects that I was working on.

Identifying what mattered to me

Freelancing taught me to manage my time, my workload, it taught me to be discerning when it came to picking projects, and most importantly, it taught me what I defined as success and what I valued most.

And this sort of laid the groundwork for the next few years of my career, which was about having the freedom and flexibility to work on multiple things. I then moved to the UK where I worked in a startup as a content marketer. It was a role where I felt completely at home. I continued to draw comics on the side, I continued to write travel articles, and I’ve just started writing children’s books.

I’d like to share three takeaways that’s come from a life of experimenting.

  • One is that you don’t have to quit your job to do what you love. I mean, you can if you want to, but that’s not the only way. I think it also makes sense to work towards the financial stability that gives you the freedom to experiment and to be able to afford that time and space is a huge luxury in itself..
  • The second is that you get to define what success means for you. For me, many times success is just about waking up, looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, hey, you’re not doing that bad a job. Which is, which is cool, but whether success for you is about climbing the corporate ladder, whether it’s about being independent, whether it’s, uh, about striking a balance between what you’re doing at work and something else you like doing, you are in charge of how you define that, and you don’t have to follow anybody else’s template.
  • The third is simply to be fearless. You have the power to craft the life you want to live, and nobody else is going to do it for you.. The decisions that I’ve been most terrified to take are the ones that I’m grateful for today… and when I look back, I wonder what all the fuss was about.

So, in a nutshell, it’s okay to change your mind. Do what makes you happy, whether it’s at work or otherwise. I think the pandemic has forced us to re-examine our lives and define what really matters. Don’t let fear get in the way of (you) living your life.

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Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment



A conflicted Indian abroad: Missing family and friends, being absent

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

In this article, part of a series called The Reluctant NRI, I write about my experience moving abroad and missing friends and family. It’s  not as simple as “missing” people and places though — I think it’s more a case of being absent from a scene you’ve always pictured yourself being an integral part of. An NRI is a “Non-Residential Indian” — an Indian living outside of the country. Though this is written within that context, I suspect it might be relatable for students, expats, and anyone who has moved overseas. *The cover image is the festive celebration Pongal, a harvest festival, in which the milk boiling over represents an abundance of all good things. 

One of the things that really sucks about moving out of your home country is being absent from events relating to family and friends back home. There are a dozen arguments that can be made about staying connected, regular calls and catch-ups, how distance doesn’t define closeness, how geographical boundaries don’t cage friendships, etc. And I agree with all of them. But sometimes it just sucks to be far from (what you’ve known as) home. And I think it’s great for people to acknowledge that it sucks. When I moved abroad I struggled with being homesick and lonely and was too embarrassed to talk about it or accept it as completely normal. How uncool, Ramya! I’d tell myself. Pull yourself together and enjoy the here and now! But that was easier said than done. It was only when I found out that a friend of mine was going through something similar in another country did I think that maybe it was OK to feel what I was feeling. 

Life goes on without you

What really drives home your glaring absence is when you can’t be there for someone who needs you. In the initial years of my being away I had close friends go through illness and loss, weddings and divorces. I saw friends go through happy childbirths and traumatic miscarriages. While you can find ways to support your loved ones from a distance it also sucks to not be able to physically be with them even if only to spend a few minutes in silence or have a cup of tea together. Unless you’re super rich and can afford to make quick trips back home with minimal disruption to your bank balance, health, and work life, it’s really hard to be there in person even if you really want to.

Sometimes when my mum calls and tells me she’s feeling low I start feeling low myself about not being there in person. I’m not sure how much that would change if I lived in the same country but at least I could take a 2-hour flight instead of a 12-hour one. And oh the fear and guilt and baggage that comes with being so far, of being inaccessible. When someone is ill, it’s terrifying. In some cases it makes you feel so helpless. 

One of my close friends who went through a tough time recently mentioned (unwittingly) that if I’d been closer to her I would have been of more help. I felt my heart sink, break a little. But life goes on, ignorant of your absence. People move on, just like they should, just like you should. It seems almost cruel, how life carries on relentlessly even without you. 

Sometimes when your own life seems to be on pause for a while, look around and notice how others’ lives continue as though nothing happened. Makes you think. 

Rediscovering home, in people and places 

As someone who lived with my parents after university in the home I grew up in, I think the definition of home was always a concrete, tangible, solid thing. Pressure cooker whistles from the kitchen, the neighbourhood squirrel chirping, the apartment lift beeping. That was the soundscape of home. Though I travelled frequently, I always had a fixed place to come back to, a point of return. A place of permanence that anchored me. 

But now home has become a moving, fluid, flowing concept. Maybe it always was? Maybe the definition I had for it was too narrow before?   I long for the Western Ghats forests and waterfalls that I’ve known so well… as much as I long for the pressure cooker whistles and the monkeyspeak. I miss the birds in my garden in Loughborough (where I lived earlier) as much as I do the beeping lift back home. Maybe I always had multiple definitions of home and just didn’t know it back then. I’ve realized I tend to form quite intense bonds with the places I’ve lived in, having known them intimately. The know the feeling of running my hands along the bark of the trees I’ve loved, or the feeling of grass beneath my feet. It’s like a place is submitting to you, saying hey, here’s a piece of me. It’s a complex relationship, a kind of romance. I like the comfort of having one fixed place to call home but also be able to afford the romance of exploring other landscapes and what the earth has to offer. Maybe it’s like being in a polyamorous relationship, in which you have a primary partner. But I digress… 

Growing up I was determined to not go abroad, so much so that I didn’t pursue in career in biotechnology because of it (thank god, or I probably wouldn’t be running a comic strip now). I always told myself I’d be around back home, being easily accessible to my parents, maybe even teaching or being part of an NGO/charity. But that has now changed, and now there’s a gaping gap between the envisioned me and the real me. And that becomes a part of my everyday struggle. But what I’ve realized is that I cannot be in two places at once — a very obvious thing to state, but putting it down in writing makes it more obvious. 

Before I moved, the people I surrounded myself with were real, present. Though I had a plethora of virtual/online friends, I had “real” friends whom I knew in flesh and blood and whom I could hope to meet, if not in a day, in a week or month or couple of months. Friends who knew me. We had an idea, even if vague, of what was happening in each other’s lives. With friends spread out now all over the world it’s even harder to be clued in on what’s happening with everyone. The distance, timezones, general everyday stuff that we’ve got to do, the tiring routines, new anxieties and worries… all of these turn conversations into “nothing much” responses. People are busy, everyone’s short on time. We’re more guarded about what we share, for multiple reasons (more on that here).

The first time I met someone whom I suspected would become a close friend in the UK (and she did), I remember the thrill I felt. A real person! With a physical shape and form! In the same city! We could even meet for a cup of coffee and talk face to face! Aaaa the excitement was dizzying. It took me a good four years to get to that point though. 

Festivals and homesickness 

Growing up, Diwali was one of my most disliked festivals. I hated the noise and the smoke, the whooshing rockets that just about missed my nose while I stood in the balcony, the howling dogs, the frightened, chattering monkeys, walking in the street the next morning wondering what was going to explode beneath my foot, the litter from the ladis. But every Diwali I tear up thinking of the diyas and rangoli and food back home. I’ve now found ways to battle that by creating my own version of a Diwali celebration — we all work this out eventually, of course. 🙂 But it’s still OK to miss home and miss that atmosphere. I’ve always pushed myself to do something because I thought moping around on Diwali was inexcusable. But now I know that it’s OK to mope (only for a few minutes though haha). 

Keeping the bond alive 

To sustain a relationship for a long long time, I think it’s important (at least for me) to meet at least once in a few years. And I believe that applies to places as much as it applies to people. Just like in friendships, individuals change and you have to invest in catching up with the new avatar, how a person has evolved or “weathered” under new influences and change, you have to invest in catching up with a place. Every time I go home, the place I grew up in, I notice something different. That old shop has now shut down, that bumpy road has been repaired. I find comfort in the mango and neem trees that are still going strong, complete with their resident monkeys and bats. The neighbourhood squirrel (or rather, its descendant) chirps on a hot afternoon, the beeping lift is still as annoying as ever. I wake up early and take in that early morning freshness — of a city waking up as women wear flowers in their hair and go to the temple, of the chaiwalas setting up their stalls for the day, of aunties in salwar-kurta and white sports shoes going for a brisk early morning walk. 

I find a huge sense of relief in how accessible I am to the people I love. If someone is ill, I’m right here. If someone needs to have a chat, here I am on offer! Woohoo! All of me, body and arms and face and skin. Call it self-importance, but I feel great  going back to a scene where I want to still be wanted, still be needed. Please don’t cut me out, old home. 

I meet old friends (or what’s left of them) in town. We get coffee, we go for a walk. We sit down and have a meal. We’ve changed. We talk about how life has moved from point A to point B (after going around to Z and M and others in between, as it always does). We talk sitting across the table, we swap stories and smile and laugh and joke and sing along to the bad songs that the restaurant is playing.  

I’m talking to someone in 3D, not on a screen. There’s no red button to press to end this conversation. I’m here. I’m keeping up. 

IRL, I tell myself. What a magical thing. 

A conflicted Indian abroad: Of identity and being a misfit

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Part 3 of the series A Conflicted Indian Abroad: The Reluctant NRI, in which I write about my experiences as an Indian living in the UK. Here, I explore my unreasonably strong attachment to identity and navigate ways to dull the guilt that comes with being abroad. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Huh, what. I’m brown? 

I was introduced to the word “brown” in its usage to describe someone only after I moved out of India. I’ve never thought of myself as South Asian or brown-skinned. I’ve never really been aware (or should I say, been made aware) of my race and ethnicity. Even after I moved abroad and settled into life in the UK, it never struck me that anybody would perceive me as different. I didn’t have a work circle or a social circle, and mostly spent my time in the park. This left me quite unaware that I was an outsider. I went to the pub, I ate scrambled eggs for breakfast. I planted daffodils and said hello to my neighbours. I assumed I was just like everyone else. I’d simply never used those words to describe people: black, white, brown. (In India there’s a different sort of  skin colour racism… but that’s a story for another time.) 

After a few years of living in the UK, I was invited to speak at a conference in Leicester about diversity in travel writing. One of the talking points was my experience as a South Asian woman living in the UK, the challenges I might have faced, and what I think of other South Asian women writers in the UK. I was quite startled by the theme as firstly I had never been conscious of this identity as a South Asian woman writer and I had never paid attention to any unique challenges I might face. 

I had assumed that my challenges were like anybody else’s in the writing space: you pitch, you win some, you lose some.

I didn’t consider myself unequal in any way – the thought simply didn’t cross my mind. When I look back now, I figure maybe that was because of some kind of privilege? My hairdresser commented once that she had never cut such thick, long, dark Indian hair, and I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or otherwise. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. 

When I pursued a nature writing course online, my tutor remarked that I was a rare person in crossing boundaries, as an Indian woman living in the UK with a love of nature and comics. I read that over and over again and accepted it as true, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was that made it rare. I am Indian, I am a woman, I live in the UK. I love nature and I draw comics. Surely it couldn’t be that rare? 

But after some more years of living here, I understand what makes it rare. In fact, sometimes I get a bit worried about the variety of influences that I’ve had – it all seems so overwhelming somehow. I know the beat of the drums played in the temple next door at home as well as the rhythm to Dave Matthews’ Stay. At an event in the Loughborough market, I was surprised when I recognized most of the Salvation Army’s brass band marches as I’d marched to them in school. I’d grown up wearing jasmine in my hair and smelling marigold, but words that were deeply embedded in my vocabulary were foxgloves and snowdrops and bluebells – though I’d never seen any of those flowers back in India! I grew up with (what I thought was unlimited and unrestricted but later found was carefully monitored) access to the Internet, which helped me get some (limited) understanding of the world outside India.

Culture shock

But no matter how much TV you watch or how much Queen or Deep Purple or Alan Parsons you listen to or how much of George Orwell or Zadie Smith you read, you simply can’t know what everyday life is like in in the UK unless you actually live here. I also realize the definition of “everyday life” varies in different parts of this small country – and it can’t be generalized – just like it can’t be in India. 

The culture shock comes in so many forms. One of the things that I still can’t wrap my head around is the easy access to hot water. Every time I turn on the hot water tap and hot water comes gushing out, it takes me by surprise for the initial few seconds. What a luxury! What a comfort on a cold winter day! And every time I can’t help feeling overcome by guilt about others not having access to water at all, of any temperature. Ah, good ol’ NRI guilt. It’s starting to get real familiar. 

This evening a dog barked for exactly 3 minutes on the street. Later I opened Facebook and saw a massive conversation on the residents association group  about the dog barking. Perhaps the owners left it alone at home, they said. Poor thing. Maybe it’s in pain? Someone should go find out. What a tragedy.  

People were really upset about it. There was a big discussion. There was talk about calling the council. Or the RSPCA.  I don’t mean to say that we don’t share the same kind of compassion or concern for animals – it’s just that in India, people are simply used to focussing on bigger problems. My neighbourhood in Hyderabad is full of dogs that bark and howl into the dark hours of the night. Most people cuss and stuff their heads into their pillows and try to go back to sleep.

In India it’s true that we have to choose our battles because there are way too many to fight. We have to ignore half the problems just to survive and keep ourselves sane.

In a nutshell, the culture shock came in the form of realizing what people meant by “third world country”. It came to me in the realization that the true injustice is in this world is really about where you are born! People are always talking about not letting your birthplace, your country, define your progress or future but the reality is that the world is skewed and some people live and die in the unfavourable circumstances they are in. I also thought about how poverty is always on display in India. It is inescapable. I thought about Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness, a book that made me cringe and made my heart bleed for the India that he saw.

Well. Here, the world seemed more sanitized. The beautiful meadows and lovely cottages with their chimneys smoking, the hot water gushing from the tap, the access to cleaner air (at least in the places I’ve lived in), the public footpaths, the National Trust properties, people standing aside to give way to you on the footpath –all of this seemed like a fairytale. And I thought to myself – wow, what a place! It’s only after spending a few years that I’ve come to realize that the UK has its own share of problems and the picture isn’t as rosy as it looks.  

Misery is not a contest 

I’ve always struggled with guilt about having something that someone else can’t afford. It’s a unhealthy way to look at things – and in my adult life I think I want to move away from that guilt so much that I’m occasionally reckless with spending, as some sort of rebellion. Having gone to a Catholic school back home that had us “pray for the sick and the suffering” everyday and often reminded us of our privilege, I think that guilt was instilled in me at a very young age. 

But with time I have realized that misery is not a contest. I used to find it absurd that with clean air, clean water and somewhat enough to go around (at least in comparison), people still found so many things to be unhappy about. But now I see it differently. I realize that a kid starving in Africa didn’t mean that the intensity of hunger is not felt by someone who skips a couple of meals. You can only make measurements based on your understanding of dimensions, based on the extremes that you have experienced. It’s also unfair – it’s like saying that you shouldn’t complain about a headache because someone else might have a fractured bone. The problems are real. The pain is real. Poverty is very real – as real in the UK as it is in India. The NHS queues are real, the cost of living crisis is real. The problems are different – but they are real. 

Where do I fit?

Growing up I dreaded being an NRI. Like many other Indians, I treated NRIs with contempt and suspicion: they were a strange breed that romanced India yet didn’t seem to love it enough to live in it. An NRI, especially one that had spent some part of their life in India, would grumble about the lack of infrastructure, the scorching heat, when they only had to spend a little window of their lives here before they went back to their cushy lives (or so I assumed) in a fancy country.

I wasn’t even aware of my bias until I became an NRI and realized that many NRIs, just like Indians and everybody else in this world, are struggling to make sense of life, make money, have a sense of security and safety. I fought with my own biases. I redefined how I look at the world. I changed, over and over again, with every experience. 

So, as an Indian woman in the UK, with a love of nature and comics, where do I fit? As a guilty, reluctant NRI who wants to give back to India yet has made the choice of living here, at least for now, how do I live life? How do I turn that guilt into something useful? How do I split myself into two people and send one person back home and keep one person here? As a friend who wants to be accessible to friends and family back home yet wants to build a life and carve a space for myself here, how do I keep myself sane? As someone who identifies with old Lata Mangeshkar songs as much as I do with Jacob Collier, who can recite Wordsworth as well as appreciate Premchand, who has poached eggs for breakfast and khichdi for lunch, can I really box my identity into a geography?

And that’s maybe where I can find some comfort in the answer. Maybe all this talk about identity is slightly overrated. But maybe the attachment to identity itself is a fundamental problem: possibly even the root of “otherizing” and divide. We love boxing people into categories – brown, black, white, NRI, Indian, British, British Indian, BAME, ethnic minorities, Asian, etc.

But we are after all inhabitants of the same piece of rock, made of the same stuff. Our contexts are different, our influences, our cultures, our access to necessities and luxuries, the lines on the map around where we live. Maybe I don’t have to agonize over being called brown or an NRI or anything at all when I’m just, in the words of Pink Floyd, an “earth-bound misfit”, like  others. Maybe I can find ways to give back to where I grew up, where I spent a happy 28 years of life, without attaching so much emotional baggage to it. Maybe I can celebrate having multiple places to call home. Maybe I can accept that while I define myself as Indian, I need not stop there.

Writing samples

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

I’m sharing below different types of content written for various purposes. At a high level, almost all of the content on kolabtree.com/blog is sourced, written and designed by me, including the layout, plugins, etc.

1. A landing page communicating our value to small businesses: https://www.kolabtree.com/solutions/small-businesses

2. Optimizing SEO and content on this page, ranks #1 for “hire a chemist” https://www.kolabtree.com/find-an-expert/subject/chemistry

3. A short, high-converting blog post speaking to a high-intent audience: https://www.kolabtree.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-chemist/ (ranks #1 for “how to hire a chemist”)  

4. An article published in Business Matters UK, ranking #1 for long-tail keyword “how to take a food product to market”: https://bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/advice/seven-steps-for-taking-your-food-product-to-market/

5.  A blog post addressing a specific pain point at the “consideration” stage of the journey: https://www.kolabtree.com/blog/7-tips-to-protect-your-ip-while-working-with-a-freelancer/ (a version of this was published in Startups Magazine UK)

6. A blog post solving a specific problem, which helped us get visibility among clients: https://www.kolabtree.com/blog/how-healthcare-companies-can-recover-from-the-medic-update-in-3-steps/

7. An email that saw one of our highest CTRs/conversions:
https://mailchi.mp/kolabtree/coronavirus-research-how-kolabtree-is-helping-4802429?e=0992b3a66d

8. An example of a LinkedIn post that performed well (part of a series of freelancer features):  https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6823557288691802112/

9. A recent success story about vegan eggs being used in client pitches

10. Using storytelling and LinkedIn carousels to showcase our success stories

11. A white paper on a complex topic (EU MDR compliance), which I researched and put together on Canva, used as a lead magnet

Increasing blog traffic (45%) and conversions (300%)

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The challenge

Kolabtree is an open talent platform that connects businesses to freelance scientists. As the organization speaks to a diverse set of clients, the challenge was to build a scalable and sustainable content strategy for the Kolabtree blog, aimed at maximizing conversions. 

The solution

To establish the Kolabtree blog as a secondary channel of business, by publishing trustworthy and reliable content.

The results

We’re growing organic traffic by 45% and conversions by at least 2x every year. In this article I break down how. 

My role

Own the blog and everything associated with it, from sourcing content and hiring writers to installing the right plugins and sidebars. I worked as part of a small and powerful team of 4 (sometimes 5), initially as the sole content marketer. In the last year, I had the support of an in-house Senior Content Writer.

The process

Here’s a 5-point summary of my approach: 

  • Personas: Developing strong persona narratives to address specific challenges 
  • Value proposition: Identifying our value proposition and competitive advantage. Communicating these at all touchpoints
  • Content types: Experimenting with a variety of content types and channels 
  • Data: Using data to measure, monitor and improve performance consistently  
  • Repurposing and distribution: Making sure old content gets recycled and content is repurposed

TIMELINE 

2016-2018

  • Established Kolabtree blog with the aim of it being a high-converting channel 
  • Tweaked the SmartMag WordPress theme to add custom menus, sidebars and plugins
  • During this time, we had a few thousand visitors

2018-2019

  • Started investing in hiring experts to write for the blog on specific subjects, especially after Google’s Medic update 
  • Split up content calendar by persona

100% increase in traffic and several improvements in page rankings.   

2019-2020 

  • Moved from a subdomain to a subfolder 
  • Had a specific industry focus every quarter 
  • Improved the quality of traffic by moving to a high-intent audience
  • Started a “how to hire” series on the blog that brings in a niche, small audience with high chance of conversions. 
  • SEO strategy became stronger, using keywords with not only high search volumes but strong commercial intent. 

200% increase in traffic. 
140% increase in traffic from blog to homepage, demonstrating better quality audience.
350% increase in conversions

2020-2021

  • Developed a massive content plan with content pillars for users across funnels. This means that Kolabtree will never run of things to write about 🙂
  • Provided a space for freelancers to talk about their work 
  • Started publishing interviews with freelancers to spotlight their work
  • Developed a stronger plan to distribute content  
  • Moved towards publishing content of at least 2,000 words

45% increase in traffic. 
240% increase in traffic from blog to homepage, demonstrating an even better quality of audience. 
350% increase in conversions


Defining services for Kolabtree

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Before

After

Context

Kolabtree helps businesses hire freelance experts and scientists online. Users are asked to post a project, during which they select the service they are looking for. An internal algorithm works to pull up a list of recommended experts.

The problem

Kolabtree clients were taking a lot of time to choose a service as the options were confusing. Many users were also choosing the “Other” option even though their service was listed. This meant that they found decision-making difficult at this point and wanted to quickly move on to the next step. However, choosing a wrong service impacts matchmaking, and so users did not see the right set of experts, leading to a drop in conversions.

The solution

With the aim of reducing the amount of time users spend making a decision on this page, we wanted to classify Kolabtree’s services into not more than five categories.

My role and approach

My role was to research how users were interacting with the product, specifically understanding the language they were using while posting a project. I found that many users were choosing the “Other” option even though their requirement was listed in the options, which meant that they wanted to quickly move on to the next step. Choosing a wrong service impacted matchmaking, and users were not able to see the best-suited experts.

I used a five step approach:

  1. Research existing user behaviour
  2. Understand the language clients were using and mapping them to our services
  3. Editing and merging categories
  4. Testing out new categories with existing and new categories to make sure nothing was missed
  5. Looking at heatmaps and GA data to analyze drop-offs and flow to next step

The benefits

  • The number of users filling out this information and moving to next step grew by 30%.
  • This step guided the rest of the steps on the form, making it easy for users to see a list of matched experts. This improved conversions.
  • The information captured at this point helped us refine subcategories and show pricing recommendations.

Finding home 5,000 miles away from home

Ramya SriramUncategorized4 Comments

It came as a surprise to me that England was exactly as I’d imagined it to be. The thatched-roof cottages, rambling roses and gigantic oak trees that I’d seen in picture books as a child all stood life-sized in front of me. The drive from Heathrow to Oxfordshire was nothing spectacular if you looked straight ahead, but on either side of the road, bright yellow fields shone under the clear blue sky. It was early March, the season of the rapeseed blooms. I’d chosen spring to introduce me to England. 

On the 11 hour flight from India to the UK, I mapped the names on the screen in front of me to the gigantic rivers and city-clusters that I saw below. I remembered marking many of these places painstakingly on world maps in geography class—the Ural mountains, the Aral Sea—it felt like I was drawing them to life from my window seat. For most of my life I’d been vehemently opposed to the idea of moving abroad. But when I decided to start life with my friend from college, who was then based in the UK, it only seemed fair to give it a chance. 

The village of Chesterton, my new home, was startlingly pretty, at least to my city-sore eyes. Around the house grew thick green ivy (carefully tended to by the landlady), and large pots of blooms in riotous colours stood on either side of the door. Looking back, I think I had arrived at the perfect time. 

I spent my first month in the UK in a sort of daze, waking up to blackbirds singing in the garden and the twittering of robins. I went on long walks around the village, which was decidedly easy on the eyes. I saw daffodils for the first time ever a few days after I arrived. Even though I had never seen pictures of these flowers, I instantly recognized them. I was thrilled that the Wordsworth poem I’d recited so many times in school back in India had sprung to life. Suddenly, I felt at home in this place, where everything seemed so unfamiliar. 

Four years on, and I still go to pieces when I see the first narcissi of the year bloom. 


Life in small town England was quite different from that in its cities. The shops in the nearest town closed at 5 pm, the last bus back was at about 6 pm. Astonishingly, everyone seemed content with this arrangement. There was a general quiet that fell upon the village in the evenings. Unused to the silence and the cold, I would fall asleep at dusk.  

After I quit my job to freelance back in India, I’d resolved to apply to jobs in the UK only once I’d got used to the place and settled in. However, all reason abandoned me once I moved. I woke up at odd hours frantically scouring job sites and writing cover letter after cover letter. Was this a mistake? Was I risking my career? I couldn’t quite shake off the panic, even as I woke up to lovely little surprises from my partner (cheese omelette was a real winner). 

I was severely homesick, but refused to acknowledge and accept it. I missed the strangest things about home. I missed the sound of the papiha (the brainfever bird), a noisy bird whose song reaches a crescendo before it starts all over again. It’s amazing how much a soundscape affects the way you bond with a place. Back at home, there was always some kind of background noise, especially the sound of welding which I think is the unofficial OST of Indian cities. Somebody’s always welding something in India. There was the azaan from the mosque next door, the horn of the temple conch, kids playing in the street, our apartment lift beeping at someone to close the doors.

The absence of people was the thing I found most difficult to get used to. Suddenly there was no watchman, milkman or paperman; there were no autowalas, maids, grocery shop uncles, kolam-drawing aunties or chatty neighbours; no people spilling out of buses, no people on Scootys, no people at petrol bunks. No people. The lack of human interaction was stark. My mum summed up my feelings when she visited me a few months later: “Wow this place is beautiful. Such lovely fields! So much natural beauty! But where are all the people?” 

And the rains! I would tear up thinking of the earthy smell of the rain back home, bhutta (corn on the cob) being roasted and people running for cover with plastic bags on their heads. Here, it rained a lot but the rain was less dramatic, and it didn’t smell of home. I lamented to my long-suffering husband about how I crossed the oceans for him to live in a place where even the rain didn’t smell like rain and we didn’t have easy access to street food.  

The mental stress manifested physically. While on a video call with an old friend back home, he tried to tell me politely that I’d put on weight and added, only half-jokingly, “It’s because you don’t have friends over there, Ramya. If you have people to share your stories with, you stay fit. But if you accumulate it all inside you, then it has to be stored somewhere.” I didn’t argue with him. 

But in all seriousness, I found the move pretty hard to deal with. I had lived with family after university back home, I had a wide circle of friends and I had a stable career in India. I was hard on myself for not getting a job immediately and for not having a house full of all the new friends I’d dreamt I’d make. I’m a fairly social being and I had pictured married life to be all about board games and house parties with lots of loud laughter and twinkly fairy lights. I didn’t realize I’d be spending the initial evenings questioning my self-worth. The loneliness was piercing, the silence deafening. On some days I thought I must be going mad. And to add to it all, the guilt! I had married the love of my life, the cherry trees were in bloom and everything was perfect. Surely I had no right to feel low? 

I think one of the reasons people don’t talk about being homesick is simply because it makes you seem selfish and small. Especially when you’re in a position of privilege. Nobody wants to be told they’re just acting like a big baby. It was only until years later when a friend who was going through something similar spoke about it did I realize what I felt was perhaps completely normal. 


I had grown up in a middle-class family in India with access to good education and exposure. Even so, I was incredibly fascinated by the ‘first-worldness’ of what I saw around me in the UK. Access to clean running water, clean air and basic necessities seemed to be more of a given than a luxury. I felt like I had just walked from a bazaar full of deserving yet poorly-compensated artists and craftsmen to a glitzy mall with big-brand showrooms. A naive analogy, I know, but the world just seemed incredibly unfair. 

I once spoke with a cab driver from Punjab who said, “In the UK, if you do your job honestly and work really hard, eventually you’d be able to buy a home and a car and live a good life. In India you might work really hard all day long, but everything is a matter of kismat!” 

On some days, every memory from back home would frame itself into a fundraiser poster for global charities. Ugh! The street kid watching you eat an ice cream, the old man sleeping out in the cold, women not having access to sanitary hygiene. Every day the guilt multiplied. I would repeatedly picture myself as the hero of this fantasy: I would fly back home, passionately kiss the soil once I landed, and travel all over the country, leading a large-scale social reform movement. Aha! That was my life’s true purpose. And then cheese omelette would reappear in the morning and I would remind myself of the reason I had moved. I would tell myself to be patient, and that eventually I would be able to untangle my thoughts and categorize them neatly into Excel sheets with highlighted next steps. 


As a teenager, I had devoured Bill Byrson and PG Wodehouse and Durrell. I had even read George Mikes’ hilarious travel books, in particular, How to Be a Brit, that should have surely prepared me to blend into my new home. But it was one thing to know of a place through books and movies and the Internet and it was altogether a different thing to actually live there. Maybe I felt the disconnect a lot more because of where I was living. If I’d moved into London or any big city, I’m sure I would have felt differently. In big cities, there is an unspoken bond of shared experiences. You could be walking next to someone going through the same thing as you are. Maybe I just found the uniqueness of my experience isolating. 

In a way, a lot of these experiences became mine and mine alone. During the job-hunting days I’d wander off to the town while my partner went to work. If it were New York or London or Delhi I’d probably find plenty of avenues—groups, online forums, books, blogs—that I could be a part of and say “I just loved that old bookshop too!” But these experiences became personal and internalized. I liked that I was the only one who knew about that one tree which was the perfect spot to rest under on a hot afternoon. I liked that I knew which neighbourhood garden featured what tree.  I smiled at the guy who played his violin every Saturday at Market Square, and I listened to the handful of guitarists that busked there. In spite of everything being so new, there were objects I gradually started to identify with. The gnome in that garden, the pretty vase on that house’s windowsill. 

During a walk one day, I took in the wonderful aroma of biryani that wafted out of somebody’s house and did a little happy jig. 


There was no grocery store in the village, but there was a pub (of course) and a church. The first time I went to the supermarket, I was mesmerized. It sold hot cross buns, ginger beer and jam tarts just like my Enid Blyton books promised, alongside the more alarming Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole and Pigs in Blankets. I discovered trifle and madeira cake, piled on the pounds, and enjoyed being addressed to as ’my love” by the friendly lady at the till. She was suspicious of my friend though, who picked up several ciders to take back with him to France. “You must be very thirsty,” she’d said to him drily. When I took a bus into town for the first time, I was the only passenger in it, something that was hardly common back home! 

I spent much of my initial days answering the door and chatting with everyone from roof-fixers to Greenpeace campaigners. The postman figured that someone was always at home at number 37 and I became a parcel collector. Two JW ladies exclaimed that I “must be Hindu” and went on to declare that we’re all the same and want to believe that there’s hope left in this world. I spoke for a long time with a delivery guy from Somalia one day about moving to a different country. Bucks Wildlife Trust popped by one day to talk about the rapidly-vanishing owls and hedgehogs. I learned many things from these conversations.  

And what better time could I have arrived in the UK but for the run up to the Great Referendum!  A pro-Brexit campaigner once knocked on my door,  took a good look at me and shook my hand, announcing, “You look new around here, love. Do you know what’s been happening in this country? No? Let me tell you. We’ve got some catching up to do.” I’ve carefully saved all the Brexit-related flyers that had come through the letterbox so I can tell my grandkids about how I was witness to this fascinating bit of history. 

I also felt that peculiar feeling that I’m sure many newcomers must’ve experienced—of not being able to comprehend English at all in this country. The first time my partner (who’d been in the UK for over 7 years) mentioned that he was going to the surgery, I was startled. Surgery? I said. Who’s having a surgery? It quickly dawned on me that it was what they called hospitals here, just like they called ovens cookers and vacuum cleaners hoovers. 

At a neighbourhood Christmas party once, I found that I unwittingly attracted much attention. My neighbours, who weren’t used to seeing many new folks in the area, asked me lots of difficult questions about India: How come baring your midriff in a saree is OK but you need to wear a dupatta for modesty while wearing a salwar-kameez? Do you really see a lot of cows on the road? How safe is it for women? 

And then: Can you cook a good curry? How come your English is so good? Do you really mean it when you say you and your husband have no other family in the UK? Must be awfully lonely

I also saw other bizarre events that this country was witness to—the Great Scone Debate for example. Ah, what a delight it was to switch on the TV on some days! A cow got its head stuck in a chair, a donkey fell into a well and was rescued by firemen, and a lady adopted a bumble bee which couldn’t fly. BBC Breakfast became a daily routine, I watched reruns of Come Dine with Me, got addicted to WILTY and spent considerable time understanding the concept of a TV license. I spent every week waiting for 8 pm on Sundays to watch Attenborough on Planet Earth II. 

Eventually, as much as I rebelled against it, I fell in love more and more with the UK. I couldn’t keep moping forever. During long summer afternoons I’d watch the birds splashing about in the bird bath for hours. Though it sounds a bit idiotic, I think it’s comforting to find all these little universal truths, things that seem to the same no matter where you are. I found that squirrels liked nuts both in India and the UK. Venus sparkled in the sky in both countries. And of course, I realized that people are pretty much the same the world over. 

With time, I found ways to reconstruct pieces of home in my new place. My partner and I moved four times in the UK and I carried home with me wherever I went. In a handed-down recipe book, in a box of spices, in a magazine from an airport, in a colourful bandhani scarf. I figured I couldn’t continue living life trying to be in two places at once, I had to let go. I found that I had plenty of opportunity to drive change even if I wasn’t hopping from village to village in India. I found that I could love another place without feeling like I’d committed some Great Act of Betrayal. I rid myself of guilt. I found that I was lucky enough to be able to split time between the two countries, see my family often, and ended up making the best-decision ever: I chose a location-independent job. 


With easy access to the countryside, it’s impossible to resist falling deeply in love with the UK. England is where I nurtured my love for long, meditative, thoughtless walks. A place where I discovered that I love magnolia trees and strangely, duck egg blue, a shade I’d never heard of before I moved. In particular I’ve grown attached to the little Public Footpath signs that dot the countryside, offering the prospect of a nice amble beside gurgling streams and open fields and placid sheep. (The bovine animals don’t look upon you as kindly though, especially if you’re with a border collie. I speak from experience. ) I’ve started becoming more open to the unavoidable impact my experiences would have on me and started to actively seek out more. 

One of my favourite walking routes. Watermead Lane, Loughborough

For four years, I delighted in the bluebell woods, the beech trees, the bracken. I picked up conkers, went on circular walks, and visited National Trust estates. I visited the Chilterns (so underrated!) and the Cotswolds (slightly overrated), walked the fells in the Lake District (overwhelmingly gorgeous), stayed in charming seaside towns in Wales and did a train ride through the remote Scottish highlands. I stuck my nose to the window all day long when it snowed heavily one winter, amazed that I could build a snowman in my very own backyard. 

And now, a new soundscape has grown familiar. The loud call of the blue tit, the sound of the post coming in through the letterbox. The ice-cream van in summer. The ‘Please take your items’ voice at self check-out in supermarkets. The sound of cars, which earlier used to be ‘honk honk’, is now ‘whoosh’.

I think of the UK as a country where its people love and value their privacy, dogs, leisure centres, gardens and Red Lions/White Harts. This place has become home in its own peculiar way. I’m now used to being asked if I’m alright when I walk into a store. I’ve learned that the right thing to say in response to how I’m doing is the non-committal  “Not too bad”. I look forward to the same old Christmas songs that play on loop on the radio every winter. I know my bin collection days.  I stock up on Lemsip and am happy to tuck into my fried eggs for breakfast. Sometimes I think it might even be odd to go a few days without hearing about the weather from the BBC reporter Carol on the telly… er, television. And after four years here, I’ve realized the profound truth that the UK offers—that a hot cup of tea and biscuits can help you tide over the dullest days. 

Comics about women in the workplace: A collaboration

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

A series I made in collaboration with Women’s Web and a tech company (that can’t be named as they changed their mind about the campaign!). The series aimed to encourage and celebrate women at work, while focusing on the importance of setting boundaries, defining success and trusting yourself.

1. For women getting back to work after a career break: maternity or otherwise. 

2. Based on real life stories from which we learn that women are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome

3. The importance of finding balance at work 

The story of Blossom Bookhouse, Bangalore’s best-loved bookstore

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This article was first published in The Better India on August 13, 2017, 1:00 pm, titled “How One Man Made Bengaluru’s Favourite Bookstore ‘Blossom’ From the Pavement”. This is the story of Mr Mayi Gowda, the man who set up and runs the icon Blossom Bookhouse, Bangalore. 
——
Rows of shelves spill over with books, holding the promise of an escape into countless different worlds. I walk through them in amazement, but slightly panicky at the thought that I might never read each and every book here. There’s a lived-in feel about the place. I close my eyes for a second and can almost feel the stories, secrets and surprises that surround me. I pick up a book at random and flick through the pages, the paper is yellowing and dog-eared, with hand-written notes in the margins. Ah, the sweet smell of yesteryear! I settle down comfortably in a corner, feeling like I’ve found a new home.

A couple of hours later, I emerge happily from the shop, armed with an illustrated coffee table book, a couple of obscure comics, and some rare western classics.

I’ve made my first maiden trip to the much-loved and revered bookstore of Bangalore, Blossom Book House!

The entrance of Blossom Book House – a familiar, welcoming sight for many It was the first of many visits that followed. A trip to Bengaluru was never complete without the ritualistic pilgrimage to Church Street. And over the years, in spite of growing rapidly, Blossom (more frequently referred to as Blossoms or Blossom’s) has always retained that homely, small-shop feel. The credit for that goes to its founder, the remarkable Mayi Gowda. I catch up with Mr. Gowda ten years since I made that first trip, going through my memories of Blossom, as he goes through his own.

READ THE FULL STORY ON THE BETTER INDIA.

 

Eureka!

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Be it for corporate branding projects or for individual personalised gifts, I can help you with your ideation process and the outcome. I love being pushed to think, and seeing an idea take shape and form in the physical world is incredibly satisfying.

If you’re looking for someone to help you crack that big campaign or create content that makes conversation with the reader, get in touch at ramyasriram1@gmail.com.

 

Let’s collaborate!

Ramya SriramUncategorizedLeave a Comment

I work with organisations on a variety of projects that require ideation and translation of ideas into words and pictures.

My work spans:

-Copywriting
-Illustration/Comics
-Content writing
-Merchandise Design
-Travel Writing

My clients have included, among others:

-IIM Bangalore
-Akshara Foundation
-Muncipal Corporations of the State Governments of India
-Rewheel, an NGO promoting the use of cloth bags
-Krishi Gram Vikas Kendra, an NGO working towards sustainable rural development
-GoMowgli, a travel company

As part of my stint in JWT, I’ve written copy for Apollo Hospitals, the CK Birla Group, Gati and Delhi Public School.

Take a look at my portfolio here.

Get in touch at ramyasriram1@gmail.com!