Write ups

It is all about the sound of music

June 10, 2014 by 

     An open book of hymns on the table of her dorm, a keyboard in the corner on its stand, small pots of plants on the window sill, memories past pinned to the wall in stills — and amongst them Eva Ross sits on her bed, eyes closed, plucking on to her guitar, singing The Avett Brothers’ “Paranoia” as she drifts off to a world of music.

     The 19-year-old WKU horticulture major is not only a student but also a folk singer. She is a motivated musician who does not want to use her musical talent to make lots of money and a big name for herself. Instead, she wants to use music to cure the ill through music therapy.

     “I am really interested in music therapy. Because it would allow me to do what I love, while helping people,” Ross said.

     Ross has been exposed to music from a very early age.

     “My mother was a folk singer too. She is the one who taught me how to play guitar when I was eight. She taught me a few chords and then I found my own way. Later, when I was 12, I took piano lessons but it didn’t quite click, because I didn’t want to sit there and learn. I wanted to go wild with it,” she said.

     Ross has never been fond of school because of its restrictions and rules. She has always wanted to be free and limitless — to be able to do whatever she wanted to do.

     “I never studied music because; I didn’t want to make it like maths. I wanted to make it fun. Also I didn’t know how to read music and that is why I have been hesitant to study it, plus music as a career is very unsustainable,” Ross said.

     Jeremy Kelly, a music professor at WKU who has also been an opera performer for the past 25 years, said that making a career in music is not only very difficult but also very limited.

     “A career in music is not only about having talent, one must also have the drive to achieve and realise dreams. It is this drive that should make you say ‘I don’t need internet. I don’t need cable. Because I want to be an artist,’” Kelly said.

     Ross said not everyone can make it big.

     “That is why we praise the musicians who make it to the top without learning music at school,” she said.

     “When I play music, I play from my heart. Music is like an expression to me, it is not something I do to get fame, recognition or money. I do it because I love it,” Ross said, and that is why she aspires to become a music therapist over a performing artist.

     “Music therapy is real and genuine interaction with people. They are not just listening to a recording, instead they get to experience and feel the music,” she said. “And ultimately, one day I would like to have my own institution. I think it takes a soft-hearted, gentle, caring person to become a music therapist.”

     For Ross music has been her salvation and will always be her salvation, even if she doesn’t get to do it professionally.

     “I don’t necessarily need someone to sit beside me and listen to me sing,” she said “for me, knowing that I have the freedom to sing whatever I want to sing, makes me happy.”

Eva Ross

Eva Ross (Click here to go to her Sound Cloud page)

Catch Eva Ross at the Bunbury Festival and on CincyMusic.com.

P.S: This article was written as a part of my final project for my Introduction to media writing class.

I am an Indian, and I use toilet-paper

June 10, 2014 by 

‘Toilet-paper’ is the one word that makes any Indian cringe with disgust. But, that doesn’t stop us from coming to America and then complaining about using the paper.

Even though I am an Indian, I was never brought up in India. I grew up in the United Arab Emirates. The culture in UAE is pretty heterogeneous, so when it came to the restrooms a choice of both water and toilet-paper were available. This meant never having to learn to use toilet-paper.

Thus, the January of 2014, was one of the toughest months. I had start using toilet-paper to clean myself, as I going to complete my education in America. And the thought of getting used to this new habit scared me more than anything I had ever been scared of.

By this point of time all you toilet-paper using fellas, must be wondering as to why and how did toilet-paper scare me, and the Indians, I know you feel me.

We Indians don’t have a specific history behind our use of water in the washrooms. We use it simply because we find it hygienic and get a sense of cleanliness after we wash ourselves. In some Indian cultures they have various rules like; one must completely remove all garments of clothing from ones body when using the washroom for your daily business. But, there is no such account as to how we came to use water.

Thus, the transition was not only terrifying physically but also mentally, because it took me nearly three months to look up ‘how to use toilet-paper?’ tutorials on YouTube. And I must have barely looked up a dozen videos before I shut my laptop and swore to myself, that I will accept being the odd one out but, I shall never use toilet-paper in my life.

Nonetheless a woman can change.

On reaching the Red Roof Inn, Bowling Green, Kentucky I felt it was necessary to embrace the culture where I was going to be for the next few years. So, I gave it another try, and voilà, it was so simple; I could not imagine why I was being so paranoid about using toilet-paper. Not only was it simple, but in fact it was so easy, so convenient and so damn fascinating.

Did you know; toilet-papers have been in use from the 14th century? Joseph C. Gayetty of New York started producing the first packaged toilet paper in the U.S. in 1857. It consisted of pre-moistened flat sheets, which were medicated with aloe and were named “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper”. Then in 1877 Albany Perforated Wrapping (A.P.W.) Paper Company gave us rolled and perforated toilet paper that we are familiar with today.  (http://nobodysperfect.com/vtpm/exhibithall/informational/tphistory.html).

The history of its conception was much less fascinating than the fact that toilet-paper came in various types, textures, colours and prices. It’s been nearly three months since I step foot in America, but the toilet-paper aisle at the markets still leaves me baffled by the kind of choices it offers.

You can literally choose to be stingy or incredibly generous when it comes to taking care of your hienie. You can choose from an array of papers, from moist to dry, quilted to course, made-out of trees to made-out a recycled paper, standard to jumbo to jumbo junior. Not only that, if you think that you want to reach the apex of luxury, you have to buy the 22-karat gold-plated toilet-paper, which by the way, comes with a bottle champagne. And trust me; it will only cost you a meager $1.3 Million, (shipping charges not included) (http://www.ealuxe.com/most-expensive-toilet-paper-world/).

So, the next time any of you water using fellas think about making a face when you hear of toilet-paper, you just remember that water available to you in the washrooms are not scented, not coloured, not textured, doesn’t come in various sizes and guess what it doesn’t it come in gold.

And as for me, using toilet-paper was one fun experience. So do you still want to judge a book by its cover?

P.S: I wrote this blog post for my Introduction to media writing class, the assignment being write a blog post on any topic.

My life in pictures

June 19, 2013 by 

As a student I have never been able to ace a subject that never interested me. So once I was done with school, my father and I sat down to have a chat when he told me that, he wanted me to do Engineering and graduate to do a white collar 8-9 job. My exact reaction to his statement was simple; “NO!” He asked me why, and I explained to him that I wanted to do something that interested me, something that made me happy, something that I loved, something creative, something that defined me. And then it all began!

For the past three years I have been studying Media and Communications in an affiliated esteemed Indian college, Manipal University, Dubai. The reason I initially joined this course was to do a lot of creative writing and to eventually become an event manager and a freelance journalist. But by my second year I had totally changed my intentions. When I was introduced to the subject of photography (professionally), and I was amazed as to how keen I was to learn more. It was then when I realized that; how much I enjoyed doing photography. Being able to express through my visual perspective, to convey to others my exact emotion on the subject matter made me happy.

Once I was introduced to the concept of photography, I constantly wanted outlets of inspiration, of how different people took pictures and expressed themselves through a single picture. That is when I came across webpages like Lens (New York Times), Photojournal links, National View (The National), various blogs and individual photo essays sites, finally helping me understand the concept of photojournalism and how different it was from photography. I was intrigued. And I knew this is what I wanted my career to be about, being able to take pictures not for pleasure but for being able to tell someone’s story through picture and text.

The concept of photojournalism is not thoroughly understood in India as opposed to other countries. So I constantly find myself answering questions like “What is photojournalism?” and “Why do you want to do photojournalism? Isn’t it a dying art?” (The latter are reactions of people who have a fair idea of what photojournalism is.)   I reply to them by saying,

“photojournalism is the art of packaging more than thousand words in one photograph. It is the quest of every photojournalist to make its viewers go ‘WOW’ when they see what the picture actually depicts. Yes some say it is a dying art, but I think in this generation we have more people claiming to be photographers and trying to understand the concept of photography as opposed to 10 years ago. And the reason I choose to photojournalism as my career is simple, it is because it is not something easy. It is not about just clicking a button, it is about extreme precision and the ability to find an interesting angle to mundane things, it is about being able to see what others fail to see. Because truly, there is no greater joy when somebody reads or looks at your work and you see the look on their faces, and you know that you have left them inspired and amazed.”

It has been a year that I have been pursuing my interest in photojournalism. Thus to learn more about photojournalism as a real world experience, I interned at The National for 5 months. The National is an esteemed government owned newspaper in United Arab Emirates. At The National I was under a very inspiring mentor Brian Kerrigan. He helped me learn how to be a photojournalist in this part of the world, where people in general tend to run away from the camera. I also continue to pursue my interest by maintaining a personal photography blog and help out my college in covering various events. Lastly, I keep updating myself and seeking inspiration by regularly reading and browsing through various photojournalistic blog and sites.

In the past I have done various photojournalist projects or ventures by myself. I did a photo essay on the fruit and vegetable market in my locality and how it looks when the worker trucks bring in the fresh fruits and vegetable from the docks for the day’s business, then I did a project on various people enjoying a weekend at the corniche. As a part of my college project I prepared a photography magazine and a coffee table book related to organic farming in UAE. My next target projects are, to go to India and shoot portraits of different people and find out their story and compile them in a photo feature, and to do a photo essay on my special needs sister.

Apart from photography, I also enjoy writing. I initially enlighten people about my creativity by writing poetry, and consecutively getting published 7 times in a UK based publishing company Young Writers / Forward Press. In the coming years The Statesman newspaper in Kolkata, India had published my writing about the celebration of Hindu festive cultures in a foreign nation. Recently I was also nominated for The Young Journalist Award at Dubai International Film Festival’12. Apart from that I maintain a blog and have done a considerable amount of interviews with people of various facets.

The reason I want to do this course at (this particular college) is because the course you offer is everything I want to learn in my master’s degree and more.  Moreover I think studying in the States will give me the proper exposure in my field of interest. Also it has always been my desire to study in the States and learn to be self-reliant, self-sufficient and a whole rounded person that everyone wants to be in their lives and I think studying with this institution will help me to get there.

I will currently be finishing my Undergraduate degree and will purse my maters in USA and after I finish my degree I aspire to initially work at any esteemed newspaper as a photojournalist and gain enough experience to qualify myself to be potent enough to apply to National Geographic and years later I want to freelance my gathered and improved talent. Because just as my management professor says, “You are a media person and after a point of time you should be your own boss!”

Freedom of speech is not a crime

June 10, 2013 by 

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.” 
― BanksyWall and Piece

What is art? Art could be a canvas splashed with bright colors to a portrait of beautiful naked lady. It could be lines drawn all about the space or it could be a blank canvas. In short, art is about defying rules and letting ones perspective take shape. If you agree, then why call graffiti an act of vandalism?

Communication evolved from the time when cavemen started painting on the walls of their caves and started to express themselves through these paintings. And till date we go to places like Egypt, Ajanta Elora, Lascaux, Magura…so on to admire cave paintings done to communicate stories and document events, and yet when we see a graffiti on the walls of the backdoor of your favorite restaurant we exclaim saying “ahh today’s kids!”

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Graffiti on the walls of Milan, Itlay

Graffiti is considered an act of vandalism because we don’t know the reason behind its existence. Graffiti started off as, early stages of communication, when speech was still being developed. Moving from the pre-historic to World War I, graffiti became a form of visual representation; a code, used to communicate messages that could be decoded by a fellow member. And now, in the modern day, it used to state political orientations, to make a dull brick wall colorful, to describe what is on one’s mind and finally to create art.

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A “No Tav” political graffiti on the walls of Milan, Italy

In the mid 90’s the youth started to use graffiti as a way of coming out of the closets, which is to boldly express their sexual orientation without being discriminated against. In the past few years, places like Lebanon, Palestine, Gaza and Beirut, the youth continues to use graffiti as a way to making their voices heard without any noise. And today graffiti artists like Banksy, is paid to paint walls on the street. So how is it vandalism?

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“Love is staying awake with a sick child or a healthy adult” – David Frost

According to Oxford’s dictionary vandalism means- “Action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.” So if vandalism is destruction of property, then how is it that graffiti is exhibited as art in various museums? If it is really damage of property (property for which we are paying tax) then why did a graffiti that read “Make your mom proud” make you think of what you are doing in life? If graffiti was considered a serious problem then why has it been gaining recognition from the art world more and more as a legitimate form of art?

Vandalism can take place within a split second, no one plans to vandalize a phone booth or your neighbors lawn. But graffiti is much more than just dawning and painting what you think. Most graffiti artists carry something called a ‘black book’, in which they practice the kind of art they want to do. Because painting a door can be spontaneous, but painting an entire train needs a lot of planning and practice.

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Modern form of street art on the shutter and the electrical transmission boxes in Milan, Italy

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Random graffiti done on the door of a building in Milan, Italy

Like all other artistic forms, graffiti has experienced movements or changes in style. From the first tag scribbled on a subway train to the large, complex mural on a billboard, to famous museums. The tools and the means have changed as well. Markers were traded in for spray paint, and stencils and stickers were introduced to make pieces easier to execute in a hurry.

The messages have also evolved. Graffiti has always been somewhat political, but it has come a long way from simply tagging one’s name to parodying world leaders to make a statement to creating simple profound art.

This proves that graffiti is a form of art and not just a result of random acts of vandalism. The graffiti community moves in different directions and the resultant artwork moves with it.

Speakers inspire optimism, courage and success with their stories and ideas at TEDxManipalUniversityDubai

April 24, 2013 by 

Over 80 students from Manipal University attended our first TEDx event held on 9th April 2013.  Students were able to listen and interact with the four invited speakers from different facets of life. Each speaker shared their ideas and experiences as they tried to be that one drop of water in the mighty ocean of change towards being a better individual.

Their talks were based on a self-enrichment theme, “The Better You” that aimed to inspire our current and alumni students to push boundaries, learn from failure, make the right choices and have the courage to live their dreams.

At first we had Sean Blake talk to us about the topic “Challenge Yourself.” In his speech he spoke about “The Untitled Chair Project“, which is his way to raising awareness about bone marrow cancer. He began this project after his close friend expired due to bone marrow cancer, to honor him for the struggles he faced during his illness.

 Sean Blake on “Challenge Yourself”

Sean Blake on “Challenge Yourself”

                                                                                        

Initially Sean started off by mailing all his friends and colleagues about his project idea to raise awareness about bone marrow cancer and to gather bone marrow donors. But he was surprised to get only two reply mails, out of the many he sent. And that’s when it all began. Getting only two replies was enough to help Sean and his noble cause because, something was better than nothing.

Sean is a photojournalist and his livelihood depends on taking his camera around to tell stories. Thus, his camera became the story teller and a simple red chair  the protagonist. The entire idea of  “The Untitled Chair Project” was to have a willing prop (a person) to do anything with the chair that they wanted to do, and then to share the picture to raise awareness. And once the pictures hit social media, Sean was overwhelmed by the positive response received.

And as the months rolled by Sean was amazed by how many people wanted to make a difference and come forth to help him support the cause. Because every good idea is initially rejected and every great person is initially considered stupid, but it is all about seeing the silver lining that surround the clouds.

“Imagine a world where everyone tries to make a difference.”- Sean Blake

After Sean we had a young upcoming singer/musician/lyricist, Gayathri Krishnan talk about, “The Art of embracing the Unknown.”

“Head first into the unknown, swim through the air, stay here and die or burst out and live…” are the lines from her song she performed ”The Unknown” with which she began her inspiring talk.

Gayathri Krishnan on “The Art of Embracing the Unknown”

Gayathri Krishnan on “The Art of Embracing the Unknown”

                                                                     

Her story was of a very ordinary girl, Gayathri, heading towards something that made her feel alive and that gave her the reason why she wanted to survive. From English literature classes to her love for poetry to working at an esteemed publishing house as the chief editor to finally struggling to be a singer, Gayathri laid her life in front of our eyes in pictures, making most of us relate to her story and inspiring us to embrace the unknown. And finally sharing with us her strategy of survival.

“It is to enjoy the small victories, the glorious break through, the almost successes and even the epic failures. And to conclude I would like to say to you, it might be scary as hell, but the only strategy of not knowing what you are doing, or walking a path completely unknown to you, is to embrace it. And in the little failures, the heartbreaks, and the things that weren’t, are the times that are growing in abundance. It is your dedication and drive that will get you to where you want to get, that will draw people to you, inspire you, inspire them, swallow you whole at times, and push you towards action every single time without fail.”

This was followed by our third speaker Dr. Mandar V. Bichu. A child specialist by profession and a writer by passion, who was with us to talk about “If you want, you can…make a difference.”

He started his talk by informing us, that just because your professional life is different from that of your passion, doesn’t mean that you are always forced to pick a career path that’s not your passion per say. Sometimes it only means that you enjoy doing both.

Dr.Mandar V Bichu on “If you want, you can…make a difference”

Dr.Mandar V Bichu on “If you want, you can…make a difference”

 

Dr. Bichu told us how he was keenly interested in writing books about music and musicians and how everyone kept fixating on the fact that he is doctor and that if he should be writing anything it should be medical related books. He spoke about how difficult it was for him to make people understand that he loved writing about his work as well as his passion. And finally he proved himself by writing two books- one about better parenting (related to his work) and the other about Lata Mangeshkar, and both were thoroughly acclaimed critically.

“Taking up on one profession, doesn’t mean that you give up on other passions in your life.”- Dr. Mandar Bichu

And last but not the least we had Neena Nizar speak to us about “Choices: The win-win game of life.”

Neena is a wife, a mother of two, a teacher and the oldest living person with Jansen’s Metaphyseal Chondroplaisa (a genetic disorder that causes bent bones and stunted growth). She spoke to us about her life through a simple stick figure which she drew of herself when she was small. And each time she thought that she was different, we would scribble something on the figure to convince herself that she fit right in among others. But as she grew older she began to realize that fitting in was not what she had to do, but what she had to do was to accept herself and find happiness in what she was.

Neena Nizar on “Choices: The win-win game of life”

Neena Nizar on “Choices: The win-win game of life”

As Neena preceded with her speech she told us about her perfect love story and about the two angels in her life -her sons. She told us that never in her life did she feel that her disability stopped her from doing what she wanted to do.

Today she is successful in all ways, Neena was first to start the buddy program in schools, establish a foundation for special needs children in different parts of U.A.E, she has two great children, a loving husband, great disciples (students) who get back to the world to make a difference. And in some ways she has achieved more than anyone ever will.

“I could turn the scribble into something through which I could find happiness!” – Neena Nizar

And as Neena finished her speech, the room was left spellbound, all standing up to applaud Neena and all the speakers for the series of amazingly inspiring speeches.  As the audience applauded for several minutes, they knew that the end of the event was the start of an inspired survival in each of their lives – a chance to be that “better” individual.

By Srijita Chattopadhyay

Finding Peace

March 21, 2013 by 

Most nights I lie on my bed and look out of the window and stare at the big bright moon, slowly moving out of the window frame with the ticking time. And I wonder to myself, why do I feel so restless, among the silence that surrounds me. Eventually, after hours of fight and convincing myself to sleep, when I finally close my eyes, I am filled with memories of the past.

I lie still reliving what it was and what it is not. I cling on to my pillow hoping it would comfort me, just like all the times you held me close and told me “There is no better place where I would be than here…” Your sound echos loudly in my sub conscious. And as I take a deep breath, I am overwhelmed by how well I can recall your smell, it is almost like you are right beside me.

Thinking, brooding, imagining and reliving each memory I fall asleep. And as I get up next morning…the first thing that strikes my senses, is the dream I had from last night, where I was yours and you were mine!

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This picture is a copyright of Srijita Chattopadhyay.

Hearing The Gulf Voices

December 19, 2012 by 

The making of various types of Arab films has steeply risen. In comparison to the past three years, 2012 showcased some well made and well thought Arabic movies in various festivals like Wadjda (Saudi Arabia), 48 Hours (Iraq) , Swings (Syria) Baghdad Messi (Iraq) and Gaza Calling (Palestine) to name a few.

“How you communicate with your audience through a film is the key. It’s not the language nor is it the actor. Film making is all about communication,” said International Programmer, Toronto International Film Festival, Rasha Saltl.

Today an increasing number of Arab youth want to make more films to bring out the various facets of the Arab life, various issues, culture, tradition and human stories. And the rebel being that most of these films are written and directed by female directors.

But the issue here lies in the fact that, most of these Arab movies are underestimated in its own nation and when it goes to other regions like the USA, the audience gets over critical about it and often goes unwatched due to society’s preconceived notions.

But in a more positive outlook, the Arab region today, is increasingly encouraging film makers and communities to produce quality content. The Arab crowds staying abroad are making an effort to organize more film festivals to showcase local talent at an international podium indicating that Gulf voices are being heard by a larger audience.

By Srijita Chattopadhyay

New comers in The Indian film industry have just one question”What about us?”

December 15, 2012 by 

Of the 1000 or so commercial movies that are made in India each, year, nearly 300 are independent movies. As impressive as that number is, the fact is indie Indian movies don’t get funded in their motherland. They have to go all the way to the European, African and other countries to receive investments.

“There is no support system from India, for any documentary or independent films,” says Sourav Sarangi, an independent documentary film maker from Kolkata. “It’s really disheartening to know that there might be a potential audience willing to watch my movie, but, I don’t have the outlet to show it in my country. But that doesn’t mean that we stop making movies. You reach and get you support system.” He was speaking …. On 11th December 2012, 9th Dubai International Film Festival held a panel discussion for ‘New Indian film realities’, along with Ashim Alluwalia, an independent film maker from Bombay, and Rajkumar Yadav, an emerging actor from Bollywood. According to Ashim, new directors from India have to do a Saalam Mumbai film in order to receive funding from the Indian government. And when you go to countries like the USA, to try and receive funding from abroad, we have to face prejudices, hence making the procedure more difficult and time consuming, he says.

“Not only do independent films not get funded, but producers don’t put money in a film if the actor is not a star.” Says Rajkumar Yadav. Today if a director wants to make a film he doesn’t approach the studios but signs a contract with a superstar or a producer and only then the shooting starts, comments Mr. Sarangi. There are so many big budget movies made every month in India which turn out to be total failures, even if it has a star acting in it, but when it comes to the small budget films how come the government become so stingy and selfish… says Ashim… After all we are also a part of the country right?

India is hub of talent who get undermined due to lack of proper resources or necessary motivation. The Indian audience doesn’t mind watching new sorts of movies and films, but they are not given the proper channel to watch them and make decision what they like. Instead they are treated to mainstream Yash Chopra romances and the stereotypical Indian movies where the actors start dancing for no apparent reason.

But the good news is that there is evidence of a renaissance happening. Alluwalia talked about the new kind of films and film makers emerging from India, and how these film makers and their films break the traditional grounds of film making in Bollywood, giving the audience worldwide a different and a brand new perspective to Indian cinema.

-Srijita Chattopadhyay

Review: Don’t stop belivin’: Every mans Journey

December 14, 2012 by 

Sometimes all you need is a few hours in a theater, to get inspired. Something similar is the feel to Ramona S. Diaz docufeature, Don’t stop belivin’: Every mans Journey. The documentary that took five years to be made revolves around the long and final search of Journey’s new lead singer after the legendary Steve Perry resigned in 1998.

The film documents, Arnel Pineda, a poverty stricken Pinoy from Manila, Philippines, and his journey form a boy who sang at funerals and street corners to support his family, to his success as a lead singer for the all American boy band “Journey”. Last but not the least; it is also a story about the struggle one faces in life, before one achieves something out of it.

An inspirational film that leaves you with warm feelings of hope, faith and thankfulness for all the blessing you’re endowed with. This positive vibe comes from the protagonist of the movie Arnel, whose humble nature and down to earth character binds the whole movie together. You honestly don’t need to be a diehard Journey fan to love this movie, because the movie doesn’t just speak to the fans of the band, but it speaks to the entire mass, enlightening them that, there is always hope you keep believing in yourself and your capability.

In some ways this movie also talks about the role of social media in today’s generation. Why I say so is because, just like Arnel, many other singers in today’s industry have come from the YouTube videos. The documentary clearly states that, in the absence of social media, the band would have been unaware of the talent they discovered.

Everything is great about the movie, the narrative is subjective, the music is soothing, the script is well documented and there was no problem in understanding the theme of the movie also. But the one thing which bothers me, is the fact that the actual story matter of the movie, that is the success story of Arnel, was about 45 minutes in compared to the 1hour 30mins, that it was played for, after which the filmmakers shows a brief history of Journey (pre-Pineda) and scenes from their older tours which faulted away from the central aspect of the movie and was vaguely relevant. Because that part of the movie a fan would know and a non fan would eventually do a Web search or may not even be interested.

All in all, it is a good watch, because from the first shot of Arnel till the end, you will not be able to help but wonder, how a boy who gained an overnight success, be so humble at heart, or is it because of his humbleness he is ‘someone‘ today?

By, Srijita Chattopadhyay

H.M.Naqvi- The Karachi Home Boy

November 22, 2012 by 

The 6th day at Sharjah International Book Fair, brought us closer to the Karachi based novelist, the winner of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and the author of ‘Home Boy’…Mr. H.M.Naqvi.

1. So, when people ask, who is H.M.Naqvi, how would you define yourself?

Well, H.M.Naqvi is a writer! Fundamentally a human being, and a Pakistani and that’s how I would define myself.

2. You have been a constant traveler from childhood to youth, you have been to New YorkAlgeria (if I am not mistaken) and now Karachi, where is home?

My entire family resides in Karachi, so in that way Karachi is home. And even though I have spent time abroad; lived abroad ,worked abroad, I still always have the urge to return to Karachi. The things about Karachi that I really love, and that makes me want to go back to ‘home’ are the faint smell of the sea in the air that I breathe, then there is Nihari (a dish that I like to have every week), I like the traffic, the noise, the energy of the city. So, you know there are many things that make Karachi home for me.

3. In an interview you had said that the ‘first’ published book, (which was a bunch of papers stapled in between containing your early works of short stories written by you in your 4th grade.) Was discovered much later by you parents, so basically, what was your parents reaction when they discovered this book? Have you ever thought of publishing these short stories that you had written when you were a young boy?

The stapled short stories, I did share with them at that time, when I was in class 4. But it so happened that this book disappeared for 20-30 years, and just materialized last year. And my parents were excited, to hold my ‘first publication.’ It was a very different excitement  because when I wrote it in class 4, my parents were like, it’s very cute and very nice. Now, they are excited  because this is the first evidence that they have, that I will pursue this trajectory.

No, I don’t think anyone should read these stories *laughs*! They are just a collection of my debut efforts as a writer. They are funny and silly and …I mean they don’t have great literary merit. So I would like to store them as a childhood memory and nothing more than that.

4. Your parents wanted you to become anything but a writer. Then why opt to be one still?

At some point you reckon that life is short, and if you are not doing what you want to be doing, then you would not be making the best of your life. So, I think it’s important that, you do what you like to do. But I don’t think that’s the only criteria for a career, I also think you have to think of the people around you, and you have to think of very tangible, very real concerns like- putting food on the table. So one should ideally do, what one wants to do, but one also has to negotiate what life throws at you.

5. You have also been a journalist. Would you choose journalism as a career option, if you later thought that being an author was not a good idea?

Between novels, I wrote a couple of articles on Karachi.

I, aspire to collect my non-fiction work into a book someday maybe. I enjoy going out discovering things and writing about them and treating them either in fiction or in non fiction. I don’t think I will give up fiction for non-fiction. But then again, Never-say-Never.

6. How and who has inspired you to write? And was it easy becoming an author?

Storytelling is what you do everyday. People do different things to make sense. Hence, I write to feel better.

But, my soul inspiration has been my dad. God bless him. Back at home, we have this huge library, and as a young boy I always observed my father sitting at the corner of the library, crouched over a couple of papers, writing something intently. And just watching him write for hours intrigued me. So I think that’s how writing came to me-from my father.

Well as for the next part of your question, You can write like 10 novels and not get published. So, its a wrong notion, that being an author is an easy job. In fact its more difficult that you think it is.

7. Was it easy getting accepted in the society, when you first started off as a writer?

There were people who made fun of me, when they got to know I write. There were times when, I ignored my mates just to write, rather than go to buy an ice cream or watch a movie. But, the perception of others shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do.

8. Who is you favorite author?

Well, if you ask me that question, I would say, ones favorite author keeps on changing with time and age. When I was in my teens I used to absolutely enjoy Russian authors, but now times have changed. But as for my favorite book, I can say that I have read ‘Heart of the Matter‘ by Graham Greene at least nine times or more.

9. You had mentioned once, that your ideal woman is “attractive, sharp as a knife, and endowed with a sense of humor.” Could you elaborate.

*Laughs* You seemed to have done your homework! Well, one of the facets I like in a human, is humor. I feel if you don’t laugh about the difficult things in your life, things will remain difficult. So one should always have the courage to laugh, but that doesn’t mean you consider your life as a joke! Hence anyone, not particularly a woman, should be humorous.



* H.M.Naqvi’s debutante novel is called ‘Home Boy.’ This novel is about three Pakistani men living in New York and the difficulties they face stay in the States post 9/11. Rollicking, bittersweet, and sharply observed, Home Boy is at once an immigrant’s tale, a mystery, and a story of love and loss, as well as a unique meditation on Americana and notions of collective identity. It announces the debut of an original, electrifying voice in contemporary fiction.

 

10. Why name your book ‘Home Boy’?

There is a very good reason why I have named it ‘Home Boy’, and I can only tell you half the answer. Home boy when put together is obviously American slang, and one of the things that an immigrant does, when arriving in the States is to master the American slang. The second reason why I cant tell you, is because you have to read ‘Home Boy’. You have the read the book till the last page to understand, why Home boy is called ‘Home Boy.’

 11. For doing the research to write your book you stayed with the NYU cab drivers for 3 days. Could you tell us you experience?

In those 3 days, I tried to inhabit the heads of those people we come across every single day, but not able to understand, how they live, what they eat, how they sleep, how long they work, what are the problems they encounter…these are things you don’t think about normally, you just get in the cab and go from one place to the other. Hence that was the imperative to inhabit their heads, get into their shoes and be one among them.

 

12. Do you feel somewhere down the line Chuck (the protagonist of the book ‘Home Boy’) is H.M.Naqvi?

In comparison to the other two characters Chuck is 14% biographical. But more or less all the three main characters in the book are facets of my persona. But one of the characters that I enjoy most is, ‘Old man Khan’, he is somebody I would like to have dinner with.

13. Which are the other publications or books that you are currently involved with?

I am currently working on a big comic novel set in Karachi and at some point I will collect my non-fiction into a book perhaps on Karachi.

14. Lastly, what is that one quote from ‘Home Boy’ that you love the most?

That’s a tough question! In a work of 250 pages, its difficult to distill the book into a single quote. I think if I have a gun to my head then I might simply say

“We fancied ourselves boulevardiers, raconteurs, renaissance men…”

It means that, the three young men believed that they were part of New York, that they were an integral part of the ethos of the city, and after things changed they realized that they were never really a part of the city.

Interview by Srijita Chattopadhyay

The writer is a final year undergrad media and communications student specializing in journalism at Manipal University, Dubai.

From where I seek my inspiration…

September 22, 2012 by 

In life so many things inspire us, the ticking of a clock, the death of a loved one, the cry of a new-born child, the sound of a distant laughter of a couple in love, silence…, so on and so forth. We could really be intrigued by a variety of things in a day, but in life, there is always that “one” thing or that “one” person who helps you through, our most terrible days.

For me that one person is my little sister, Radha. She is a beautiful girl of 13 and yet very special. To the rest of the world she is a special needs child, but for me she is the reason I find strength to survive.  She doesn’t talk much or lecture me when I am low. I place my head on her lap and cry and all she does is place her tiny, soft hands on my head and smile back at me. When she does that, I immediately know that there is nothing in the world that I can’t fight.

But that’s not exactly the reason she inspires me, the reason I feel such positive vibes when around her, is because, she is unlike all of us “normal” people. She doesn’t talk like and as much as we do. She spends her whole day juggling between, sitting on her wheel chair or sleeping in her bed. She seeks help for everything. And yet somehow at the end of the day she smiles, in the most genuine way, like nothing is wrong with her life. She doesn’t complain to have been different, she doesn’t crib being unable to do most of her stuff, she doesn’t vine that maybe her hair is not right, or this is not what she wants to wear to a mall.

Unlike all of us, she loves everyone back unconditionally, whether you pick her up and hug her, or not, whether you buy her gifts or not, whether you even remember her birthday or not, she will look up at you with her twinkling eyes, raise her hands up and say “aaaa…” meaning “come” in Bengali with a smile. She is a person, who can make you smile in the most dire situation, just by smiling back at you. And in 13 years of my life that I have known her, she has been able to pull me back up, when no one else could!

Inspiration comes from within, life doesn’t hand you over something or someone as an inspiration. You need to seek it. Look around your daily life, maybe it’s that old dress you call it your “lucky dress” or maybe its the white walls, or maybe it’s that friend of your’s who is ready to hug you out of your problem even at late hours of the day, or it’s that other friend who raises his voice and says “don’t be a cry baby, this is nothing!” So just stop, close your eyes and SEEK.

Sometimes inspiration comes to you in a small package

Once a Bangalee always a Bangalee

Posted on March 4, 2012 by 

Once a Bangalee always a Bangalee

My first published article on a news paper :)

Scrounging for gold

Posted on March 4, 2012 by 

Seasons change from scorching summers to rainy winters, but I still find that municipality worker round the corner, picking litter scattered on roads. He works tirelessly twice a day cleaning the roads for an entire area without a complaint or a demand. And this is the case of thousands of municipality worker, working all over Abu Dhabi, giving it the (what I would like to call) the spark.

“I believe in karma! What I am, is because of what I have done.” Says Hekmat, a young municipality worker. “Do you like your work?” I ask. “Well, I don’t have much say in it, do I? I rather do this job well, instead of cribbing about what I have. I have no choice; I have to work to feed myself, because I have to feed my family back home. So, no one really cares about what I like or detest.” Replies Hekmat, frustrated.

Hekmat is form a village called Semapuri, which is on the peripheries of Delhi yet miles away from it, metaphorically. Those who live here are squatters who came from Bangladesh back in 1971. Hekmat’s family is one among them. Hekmat was a former “chai wala” at a road side dhabba. His life changed, when he came in contacts with an agent who provides visa to work in Middle East and ices it with big dreams. Lulled by the offer, Hekmat moved to UAE two years back and found his hopes and dreams to be all an illusion. “This is not the life I had dreamt for myself. I always wanted to finish my schooling and then go to a college where they taught how to cook and later become a chef, you know just like Sanjeev kapoor from Khana Khazana. Actually I love to cook…always wanted to be a reputed cook…but not all dreams come true.” Smirks Hekmat.

“Tell me Hekmat, in this job of yours, by far what is the best and worst experience you have had?” I ask. “To be honest, Didi, the best part about this job is that I sometimes come across “valuable trash”. Like a lost imitation earring, a coin, a used movie ticket (he has a hobby of collecting move tickets). Once I even found a torn watch, which I repaired and am using now.” Flaunting his watch. “But the worse part about this job is that, there is no escape from this vicious cycle. Neither can we protest about this injustice nor can we let go of the job!” Sighs, Hekmat.

“Zindigi ke safar mein guzar jate hai jo makam, phir nehi aate, phir nehi aate…” I suddenly hear Hekmat humming a classic Kishore Kumar song, as he continues with his work. Leaving behind this simple yet profound message ‘in the journey of life, opportunities come, but they come knocking just once, they won’t come knocking again…’

*This is no fictitious incident. All contents name and places are true. And all conversation took place in Bangla.

What is it that is wrong?

Posted on July 20, 2011 by 

Its not a punishment! Its not hell! It is my life, a gift from God, then why is it all so complicated? Then why is it so that I am not able to convince myself to be happy?When I smile I feel that its fake, like I am doing myself a favor. When I cry, because I miss my very special someone, I feel like I have no right to happiness, that I don’t deserve to be loved. I have no idea why i beget such feelings within me.

My mother says at this age I should be all active and happy and content with what I have. But clearly I feel lonely. Sometimes I sit by myself and get lost into thoughts. And hours pass by without me realizing what the time is. I feel like a bottle of emotions trying to fizz but, but has been sealed. I feel  like this girl screaming in a crowd, waiting to be heard, but no one is listening to me. NO ONE.

 

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