“My Torrid Affair with Vlogging” Or, How I Accepted that I’m an Introvert

So I went through an experimental phase with video blogging (vlogging) and it all started because of a suggestion:

“Hey Paula, you’re living in India and you’re a filmmaker. Why don’t you make videos about your life in India?”

Makes sense, right? So I thought I would give it a shot. Being the ones who instigated the whole thing, my lovely family generously pitched in to help me buy an HD camcorder for my birthday (though not as convenient as a new iPhone, it was way more affordable).

I came back to India after renewing my visa and for five months I tried vlogging. At first it was pretty easy; I realized that the only thing of value that I could share was my experience of working and living in India as a white, middle-upper class, straight female. I would shoot all week and sit down for two hours on a Sunday putting it all together in chronological order. I would take shots of interesting images, people, events, and occasionally turn the camera around and give some kind of explanation for the people watching ‘back home’.

Funnily enough, I learned through Youtube statistics that I had more people from Trinidad & Tobago watching my vlogs than from Canada.

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Thanks Youtube.

However, towards the end of my 5 months, things started to slow down. I started pimping out my cat, Mogambo, because I thought I didn’t have anything more exciting to shoot, and I didn’t want to turn the camera around and explain that I’ve done nothing all week but sit and binge-watch “The Sopranos”. I was beginning to feel awkward being ‘that person’ who is always pulling out the camera whenever something interesting happens. The more I was filming my life, the less I felt like I was actually enjoying and appreciating those moments. Every time I turned the camera around I felt like I was forcing myself on people, so I felt pressured to say something interesting or funny. My lightweight camcorder started weighing on me, like a monster that needed to be fed.

I was never comfortable with the whole ‘selfie’ thing… what was I thinking doing a video blog?

So when I went back to Canada for a family visit I stopped putting up weekly videos… Sort of. I made a deal with myself that I will only make a video if I have something to say.


I’m not going to put links because that would be too easy for you.

That’s when I made my first, and penultimate “How to India” video. I wanted to do a series of How To videos for non-Indians needing a guide to everyday life in India. I wanted to cover the things people don’t normally warn you about, like bucket baths, squat toilets, and how to cross a busy street when there isn’t a traffic light for miles.

I wrote a script and I waited until I was alone at home. I stacked a bunch of books on top of a table and shot the damned thing. Once Sarang came home, I showed him what I did and made him shoot me doing the demonstration. I put it out into the wilderness of the Internet and waited… and I got a pretty good response. Apart from some creepy comments on Youtube, people were encouraging me to keep going.

The only problem was that I thought I was being pretty fake. The best Youtubers are always so charismatic, with energy oozing off of them while they talk to camera as if they can actually see their audience on the other side. I just didn’t understand how they did it… I tried to copy them but it felt wrong. However, because everyone was being so supportive I tried another video.


Ganpati, please save me from myself.

“How to Ganpati” took two attempts before I was happy. As Ganpati is a 10 day festival, I had until the last day to make something good. At first, I thought I would make a documentary type video explaining the importance of the festival and how it has developed over the years… I shot Sarang’s family puja, got hours of footage, and ultimately lost the plot when trying to edit it all together. It was pretty boring, and I felt that I would leave it to the BBC to cover it properly. I fell prey to the seductive nature of view counts, and decided I would make a HILARIOUS video about how to be safe and have fun during Ganpati.

The dancing part was actually really awkward to shoot… sort of like an out-of-body experience. I could see myself looking like an ass, and trying to look like an even bigger ass because that was the only kind of comedy I had going for me… I actually love dancing like an ass… but only for myself; not for an audience I don’t even know, in an attempt to make them laugh.

So even though the video did great, I was feeling icky. What would I do next? I had a list of possible How to India topics, and I thought they were all great but could I really deliver something of any value if I was too busy monitoring my performance for ‘viral’ quality?

I still couldn’t put my finger on what was going wrong, and I tried making another video. I shot it once and was repulsed by it… I tried it again a month later and felt the bile rising in my throat as I watched myself grinning widely saying, “Hello Youtube!” as if I already had a dedicated audience of thousands. My friends kept asking me when they would get to see another video and I felt the weight on my shoulders as I told them I was working on it.

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Then I read this book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” and I found my answer… I’m an introvert living in a world that values and celebrates extroversion. As a child, I was always quiet and lost in my own world. It was through 18 years of the Education System that I was taught that I needed to make myself heard if I wanted to do anything of value with my life… and for society that meant speaking up loudly, confidently, and with the charisma and magnetism of a salesman. However, many people forget that some of the greatest minds in history were reclusive, socially awkward introverts whose ideas were only communicated through writing and well-rehearsed lectures.

The amount of personal acceptance I have found after reading this book goes beyond my aversion to video blogging. I also realized that I don’t have to feel guilty about not making small talk with everyone at the party and always being the first to leave. I realized that the reason I was so conflicted about my videos was because I had a lot of things to say but hated the way I was saying it.

One of the many differences between extroverts and introverts is that introverts are far more comfortable expressing themselves through writing than through speech, because introverts understand that if they use the wrong words it can change the meaning and reduce the impact of their message. I’ve always been jealous of Extroverts and their ease of tongue that turns them into riveting Ted X speakers and inspiring politicians… However, that kind of communication just doesn’t come easily to me and I’ve learned that that’s okay.

So, I’m thankful that I have this wordpress blog (that I’ve been neglecting for the last 2 years). Basically, I just wanted to tell you that How to India isn’t stopping but that it’s going to be a pseudo-literary experience rather than an audio-visual experience… and I’m going to get back to blogging in general and stop forcing you to look at my face while saying, “Hello Youtube!” Also, if you’re like me and just can’t get onboard the selfie train, then you should also read Susan Cain’s book and perhaps learn something new about yourself too.

P.S. I’m thinking of starting a Youtube channel just for Mogambo. I can’t be Youtube famous… but maybe my cat can!

How to India: Ganpati Dancing

So I’ve found a whole new way to make a spectacle of myself! My new video series is called HOW TO INDIA. It’s a (hopefully comical) instructional video series for foreigners living life in India.

My first video was about how to Bucket Bathe. Basically, taking a bath with a bucket instead of a shower or bathtub.

My latest video (my second one) is about how to safely enjoy Ganpati as a foreign woman, with som bonus dance moves at the end (make sure you don’t miss it!).

Click here to watch!

So, how does one safely dance in a crowded, sweaty, male-dominated procession on the last day of Ganpati?

Ganpati is a Hindu festival which culminates in a procession called Visarjan, where the Ganpati Idol is immersed in water. A lot of families keep a Ganpati Idol in their house and submerge it in water at home. However, the large community Ganpati idols are ceremoniously paraded down the streets and taken to the water  (the river in Pune, the ocean in Mumbai).

Processions are amazing to see and hear, but they are extremely crowded and you need to be careful.

Going out Safely: If you’re like me, and you stand out from your typical Indian crowd, you can draw unwanted attention to yourself by dancing.

  • Tip 1: Go out with a group.
    • Strength in numbers means Fun in numbers.
  • Tip 2: Girl Power
    • Some Ganpati processions have sections for the women to dance in. This is intended to protect the women from unwanted touching and cat calling. If you’re a woman, feel free to jump in and make some friends!
  • Tip 3: Pack light
    • Take only the cash you need for the night and some ID. Make sure your phone is fully charged in case you get lost!
  • Tip 4: Wear a Disguise.
    • I find that wearing a hoodie worked really well for me last year.
    • If you want to go all-out, you can buy a mask. Nobody will look at you funny on this day, I swear.

Now make sure you watch the video on youtube to see my recommended dance-moves. There is also some additional footage that shows what to expect during a Ganpati procession.

If you want to learn how to take a bucket bath… well, I have a video for that too.


Click to watch!

I’m video blogging now!

I have started a video blog (or Vlog) called Pollywood. I know, it’s a corny name but all I could think of.

It’s a day-in-the-life type weekly video series that my family and friends in Vancouver talked me into because they wanted to see what life was like in India and the film industry here. It’s going to be a mish-mash of whatever is happening in my life, some perspective on the film industry (my own limited perspective), and general info about India and what’s going on over here.

Just a warning, there is going to be a LOT of my cat Mogambo in every video but don’t worry, he’s cool.

I have no expectations for the series but once I put up my first video on Monday I would love feedback from anyone who is interested in seeing more.

Check it out! Pollywood Vlog


Mogambo the cat.

What love smells like

Wow, what a wild 3 days! My directorial debut with our company Gulbadan Talkies. It was such a pleasure making this video for Ital Veloce‘s Valentine’s Day launch.

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We went to Kala Ghoda Art Festival, Mumbai, for our shoot in order to get some beautiful backgrounds to suit the mood of the interviews. We also got lucky because the festival drew a cross-section of Mumbai society that was open-minded and expressive, and were ready to take on the challenge of answering our question, “What does love smell like?”.

We shot 21 interviews in total, and spent some time wandering around to get some stimulating b-roll images that had an aromatic feeling to them. After that, it was a whirlwind of editing and sound until posting it online 4 hours before Valentine’s Day.

Thank you so much to our team. Gulbadan Talkies wouldn’t be the same without you!

What does love smell like? Ital Veloce

Directed by: Paula McGlynn
Production: Sarang Sathaye
Cinematography: Aditya Divekar & Aniket Gaikwad
Sound: Ashish Shinde
Edit & Sound: Joe John
Thanks to Henny Gurnasinghani

Also please check out our first video, directed by Sarang Sathaye of Gulbadan Talkies.

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Run Foreign, Run!

Warm Up

How hard can it be do go for a run in India’s international metropolis? Mumbai has a special place in many hearts including mine but that probably doesn’t include the terrible pollution and traffic.

Being from North America’s most liveable city, I grew up being spoilt by Vancouver’s long, straight roads with bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks. The fresh mountain and sea air make the perfect humidity and temperature to run outdoors, and the infrastructure makes it safe and even peaceful to run as long and as far as you can dream.

When I made the transition to living in Mumbai, it meant that I went from running 30 km’s a week to none. More than anything else, I was afraid of committing some social taboo since I didn’t see any female joggers on the roads. The thought of the people staring, the traffic, and the sidewalks kept me indoors. The cost of a gym membership, the gym small-talk, and the monotonous running on a treadmill kept me sedentary.

Living in India, I could handle many eyes staring at me on a daily basis and I only ever managed to let it piss me off about once a month when it would get really bad on a day when I have no patience. Being a caucasian with blond hair, I realized that it would just have to become a part of life. Still, I was conscious of running outside but the thought of sweaty body building men hitting on me at the gym seemed even worse.

After being told to stop complaining and just give it a try, I decided to go for an early morning run in my neighbourhood. I couldn’t imagine running in the afternoon/ evening after the streets had baked in the hot sun all day.

I used to say that the hardest part of exercising is putting on the running shoes but I have changed my mind about that. Running shoes on, I headed out for my adventure.

KM 1

I decided to start out on the beach near my house. At low tide there is usually 2-4 kilometres of good beach to run along but I had only seen it at sunset when it was crowded with cricket players, young couples, and old men. At 7:30 am, I reached Versova beach to find it almost empty at high tide. I ran toward the fishing slum, the only direction I could.

As I was running, I suddenly passed an Indian man squatting in his lungi on the edge of the water and staring peacefully out to the horizon. I didn’t think much of it an assumed it was some kind of morning meditation and continued on. Then, I passed two more doing the same thing, lungi’s hitched up to their waists. One of them sleepily turned his head in my direction as I was approaching and I realized that perhaps this was not just a morning meditation but also a part of the daily morning ritual for all the men and women of the slum as I saw another 20 or so lined up further down the beach.

I decided to give them their relative privacy and headed back to the streets to give test the sidewalks.

KM 2

I was on! Running on the sidewalks of Mumbai was like a full obstacle course. With the music playing in my headphones loud enough to just hear the car horns, I was dodging rickshaws, elderly people, roadworks, piles of dirt and garbage, and complete holes in the cement. I even thought that perhaps this could actually be a better workout than just running and I could become a hyper-alert runner and perhaps even start learning parkour.

That was when I passed a pack of stray dogs sleeping next to the chai-walla stall. They jumped up and started chasing me, biting at my heels. Scared shitless, I growled at them with my wolf-pack dog training yell and ran faster. I don’t know if I intimidated them with my growl or they just lost interest but they left me alone after that. I kept running forward and left behind a group of men laughing at me as they drank their chai.

KM 3

Now utterly conscious of the people around me, I noticed that I was the only person running. I wondered if all the gyms were full and if running outside really was a societal taboo in Mumbai. Some cars swerved closer to me as they passed while the drivers were busy staring at me. Ready to go back, I picked a bus stop 20 meters ahead as my turnaround point.

The bus stop was full of 17-21 year old boys on their way to college. They saw me coming and I knew that they were pointing me out to their friends. Starting to get uptight about the whole thing, I stared ahead and ignored them, putting on my bitch-face. As I reached them, they broke into applause. I stopped to turn around and saw the shock and guilt on their faces. Secretly relishing the feeling, I took out my headphones and asked if the applause was for me. Silence. One of them lamely pointed to some indiscriminate spot across the street as if to displace the blame.

“That’s really not necessary,” I said to them in my hoighty-toighty highschool bitch attitude. I put in my headphones and started back, really proud of myself but not so satisfied with my run.

KM 4

Taking a different route home  to hang up my running shoes until I could afford a gym membership, I passed something that I had always thought was a private garden. I stopped to take a look inside and saw that it was actually a 500 meter running track, full of men and women walking, running, and sitting on the small benches meditating. “So, THIS is where all the runners have been hiding!” I thought.

As it turned out, many parts of suburban Mumbai have these private parks that have been built by private developers in order to get permits to build their boxy, high rise apartment societies. Entry was 2 rupees (4 cents), and it was open mornings and evenings.

A bit of peace and greenery separating opposite directions of traffic in Mumbai.

A bit of peace and greenery separating opposite directions of traffic in Mumbai.

Cool Down

So I had finally found my running-haven. I started going for runs whenever I could wake up in the morning early enough to avoid the heat. I found it difficult to run more than 4-5 kilometres because I would get very tired. I read the weather report and in Mumbai it had been a forecast of “Smoke” for the last 2 months. I heard a rumour that it was recommended to run only in the evenings to avoid the pollution which settled on the ground overnight making the morning air extra-polluted.

I started running in the evening, which turned out not to be the worst thing ever. The park was busier though, and after many runs feeling like an anonymous park-runner I finally had the experience I was really trying to avoid by staying away from the gym… conversation.

Running my laps, I noticed a young guy kept stopping his workout in the stretching area to come watch me run by. Ever damn time I would run past, he would stop what he was doing, walk to the edge of the track, and openly stare as I passed. When I finally finished, I couldn’t see him and was glad I didn’t have to face him. I bent down to touch my toes and stretch my hamstrings and closed my eyes, glad to finally have a peaceful place to work out. I slowly straightened my back and opened my eyes, and I turned around to find the guy standing directly behind me. Oh shit, seriously?

I went to the other side of the stretching area and resumed stretching. The guy tried to do a pull-up on the bar and failed. He then tried to get my attention again, “are you stretching?” he asked?
“Yes,” I replied with my expert bitch-face. I put my headphones in and faced the other direction.

He left. Message received.

I don’t think there will ever be a guarantee of exercising in Mumbai in peace. I’ll just have to keep running.



Featured image source: http://runangelrun.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/woman-running-beach-sunset-abh-patient-story.jpg


I Want to be a Unicorn, a Boy one.

I describe my childhood-self in two words: Space Cadet. Every moment when my immediate and full attention was not required I would go off in my own world. I had a difficult time with bullying that manifested in ways such as hiding in the bathroom during math class only to be found, ten minutes later, by my teacher while skidding gleefully across the slippery floors in my puppy slippers.

There was even a phase in my young life when I had a couple of friends who would also join me on my fifteen-minute escapades around the park at recess. In full form, our troupe would consist of a tawny owl, a bear, and a black Unicorn with flaming mane and tail. I was the heavy metal Unicorn, and not only did I go for the most flamboyant of the animals but I always insisted that I was a boy-Unicorn. There were a few arguments about whether it was possible to be a boy-Unicorn or if Unicorns were boys and Pegasus’s were girls. I always won with the wise 9-year-old argument that Unicorns were boys because of the phallic horn on top of their heads. I also wanted to have Pegasus wings, but at that time we were not aware of hermaphrodites and I had to settle with the exclusively male Unicorn anatomy. If Disney had been a little more graphic then it would have saved us a lot of time and energy.

This was not where the story ended. I would also make-believe that I was White Fang, the famous folklore wolf (also male), and I had an inexplicable crush on the cartoon fox Robin Hood from that children’s animated film.

I had been unable to dissect this strange tendency towards the male until fairly recently. I tried to theorize that I am really a gay man in a woman’s body but the truth is I enjoy having my lady parts too much for this to be true. When I was 9 I called myself a tomboy. This is also no longer true since I have finally moved past traditional conceptions of male and female thanks to university and living in a modern age with a few good female role models. Now I can happily walk around in a shirt and pants discussing how I would like to have a penis for a day (or week) just to satisfy my curiosity without fear of being judged as sexually confused.

Going through the thick library of childhood photo albums, I can find at least three photos where I was playing the groom in a make-believe marriage. I had three wives, one of them being my own sister and all of them wearing the same dress. For the first time in my life, I wore a real wedding dress in summer 2013 for a bridal photo shoot. I realized I have never once fantasized about having a white wedding dress.

I finally found out the answer to my strange male-fascination by changing my question. It turned out not to be why I wanted to be a boy, but rather why I did not want to be a girl. In my years of physical self-discovery and the social training institute called ‘school’, I was surrounded with kids classified by ideal girls, ideal boys, and the weirdos who fit somewhere in the middle. The girls wore the right clothes, colors, experimented with makeup, and ran away laughing from the boys who tried to kiss them… The boys wore the right clothes, played the right sports, and ran away screaming from the girls who tried to kiss them, alienating them and making them question themselves for wanting to kiss just as much as the boys. Outside of this, there was also the whole world of new media, advertising, and Disney, reinforcing these gender stereotypes that I’m sure we’re all aware of. To be honest I’m tired of hearing about it, but I keep hearing about it because it’s still true.

Don’t get me wrong; I had no problem with girly things. I liked girl’s clothes and I often played with Barbies and horses but I still wanted to be a boy.

In my housing society, there was a group of boys with whom I played street hockey and other games. Kick-the-can, water gun fights, and Nintendo-64 were also some of our favorites. I was the only person of the female gender in the gang, and I was intent on making sure the boys treated me like one of their own. I became a tomboy because I wanted to partake in the same games as them, and it was almost a perfect plan.

I remember one day the boys decided to wrestle. They all partnered up and nobody wanted to wrestle with me. I couldn’t understand why, because unlike the kids in school, my neighborhood boys had never excluded me from anything. At first the argument was that I was girl, but after I became very upset, a short blond boy admitted it was because I was bigger than half of them. Being big and being a girl were my two tender spots, so I punched that boy in the eye and went home very proud of myself but also very angry.

On the other hand, the girls around me were very fond of playing house and that was all well and fine except that I wanted to play the husband. If I was ever asked to be a princess or a wife or a helpless kitten, I flat-out refused to cooperate and be a good playmate. I would then turn into a heavy metal Unicorn and obliterate everyone and everything girly. I think what got to me was the image of the soft hands of the princess trapped in the castle, gingerly lifting the teacup with the pinky finger raised and waiting to be rescued. For some reason, being female had already become associated with being powerless. Whether or not my girl friends enjoyed this feeling of being girly and being rescued, I sensed that it wasn’t for me and decided to act like I was a boy at every possible moment. It empowered me to jump over trees, build forts in the forest, punch a kid in the face, and wear hats in ways they were never made to be worn (like a backwards baseball cap, or the classic sideways, upside down visor). To my child-mind, these things would not possible for a girly girl to do.

Remotely related side story: I was a nail-biter, and to convince me to stop biting my nails my mother had to tempt me with the reward of a remote-control monster truck if I didn’t bite for 6 weeks. It was the only thing that worked since I wasn’t excited enough by the thought of having long, pretty painted nails.

Even now that I am all grown up and can dabble in both ends of the gendered behavior scale without fantasizing about Unicorns and wolves, I come across this perception almost every day. My men’s dress shoes are cool, but my high heels are hot. Somehow, wearing men’s clothing adds a new facet to my personality, while a dress just makes me look good unless it is unusually funky. Again, this is all just how I’ve been trained to perceive it and I can get past it all now as I’m sure many of you readers do as well but I hope you are getting my point.

Of course you might not really care. It’s all just a matter of how important these things are to you. As a child, I didn’t succumb to fitting in one gender or the other and suffered through the bullying until being a tomboy became cool when Avril Levine became famous. However, I like to think that if people had been more open to the idea of girls and boys being similar in taste and behavior, life could have been a lot easier for myself and numerous other children. Also, let’s take a moment and empathize with all the grown-ups who continue to live their lives according what they believe they should be, rather than who they are.

Being a human includes so many interesting and sometimes taboo aspects of our psyches that we should always feel free to explore them in some way that is safe. Whether they are our dark sides, our masculine or feminine sides, or our completely unmentionable sides, we should all feel empowered to explore them without fear of social alienation.

Unicorns can have wings too.


If you are at all wondering what I am doing with my life over here in India, you might be surprised to know that there are a fair amount of British Columbians and Canadians working in Film and Media in India.
While at the moment I am developing film projects and freelancing, I am also trying to foster film and media business between B.C. and India. Part of this is on my other website, BC – India Film & Media bcifm.com where I publish articles, news, and events relevant to people interested in working with either industry.

I have recently been conducting a series of interviews called the Crossovers series where I feature artists and professionals working in the crossover environment between India and British Columbia. So far I have featured people working in film, but if you or anyone you know is working in this crossover area in film or media and is interested in doing an interview, please get in touch with me.

Our next interview will be with Jessica Dhillon (AKA DJ Goddess). In the meantime, you can read the previous interviews here: http://bcifm.com/category/crossovers-2/