PEACE IN A POD Society

The writing’s on the page

When Aditi Surana was 14 years old, a handwriting coach pointed out that she had spent the better part of an hour carefully drawing a string of zeroes on the page. Instead of feeling apologetic or embarrassed, Surana looked at the writing carefully and found that there was definitely a pattern there. And patterns usually say something — or can be decanted for meaning.

Graphology seems a rather odd gateway to a podcast, but what Aditi Surana has done is combine her longstanding passion for handwriting analysis with her skills as a high-performance coach to create the context for conversation.

In each episode of IVM’s new podcast series, Absolutely Write, Surana engages with a guest to unpack their personal journey while she peers into their handwriting for clues to their personality. The conversations are open-ended and somewhat winding, peppered with friendly banter and some serious reflective pauses.

“Complicated conversations actually offer insights to the passive listener,” says Surana, explaining what she hopes to achieve with her podcast. “Just listening to someone talk about their journey in a non-judgmental space can create clarity.”

Surprises, anyone?

Guests on the show so far have been IVM insiders, hosts of other podcasts, and hence there is a level of comfort and familiarity that comes through. This is also the limitation, precluding any real surprises for either the host or — by extension — the listener.

Surana is quick to note that this is by design, as the team wanted to include guests who “were comfortable with the medium.” To her credit, Surana is able to bring in a measure of the unexpected when she unravels the dots and crosses in the writing samples from her guests.

Trait and reason

Speaking with her first guest Anupam Gupta, host of the business podcast Paisa Vaisa, she points to his habits of close observation and attention to process as a basis for decision making, expressed in parenting styles as much as in advising on stock market moves.

Rather than becoming caught up with the handwriting itself, Surana then pulls back to ask Gupta on how he applies this trait to his work as a financial analyst. This is where, potentially, the learning for the listener takes place. Clearly, having a seasoned podcaster as a guest helps smooth awkward pauses, though tell-tale nervous laughter does punctuate some of the early shows.

Podcast episodes toggle between interviews with these selected guests and shorter pieces launched every Friday where Surana focuses on “a topic that is essential to your personal growth.” These deal with such themes as our relationship with money, building — and breaking — habits, and finding flow (recalling Eckhart Tolle), speaking, clearly, to an audience that enjoys self-help as a genre.

Achievers in conversation

If you are among those who enjoy listening to how someone found their groove, I’d like to recommend another show that recently came to my attention. Former NPR journalist and U.S.-based leadership coach Chitra Ragavan’s When it Mattered engages achievers in conversation around their professional journeys—and the personal moments that propelled them to success or brought them back from the brink of failure.

Started in July 2019, the podcast has had guests including former FBI Director James Comey and physician-astronaut Shawna Pandya.

Ragavan’s long experience with radio and her training as a journalist comes through in her audio style, the research that informs the interviews, and the expert way in which she guides the conversation to yielding those decisive moments.

The Hyderabad-based writer and academic is a neatnik fighting a losing battle with the clutter in her head.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 12:38:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-writings-on-the-page/article31423184.ece

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