When Spain Came to London

Everyone loves a good old Bank Holiday Weekend, right? Especially when it means you get to travel…without jumping on an aeroplane!

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Happy Raksha Bandhan

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A very happy Rakhsha Bandhan or Rakhi Purnima (in Bengali)!

Today is the day sisters tie the sacred thread or rakhion their brother’s wrist to symbolise her love for him whilst in return he pledges to protect his sister.

These days Raksha Bandhan is a day where brothers and sisters feed each other sweets (yes, yet anotherexcuse to eat!) and basically celebrate the kinship between siblings.

Rakhi Purnima, does now however exclude only children, like myself. As most of you know, I’m the subcontinent, cousins/close friends are usually recognised as brothers and sisters too. In fact, as well as tying rakhis on my male cousins, I would also end up tying them on my other cherished male relatives: my grandfathers and my uncles.

So today: Whether you are Indian or not, an only child or one of many:
Be grateful for your siblings. Not just those that you are related to, for we are all one. We, as people, are the same: we breathe the same air, we share the same biology and fundamentally, we all have a desire to love and be loved.
Extend a Rakhi, the bond of protection to allyour brothers and sisters today. You may realise you have more siblings than you once thought!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all!
With love,
The Asian Destination xo

Chai & Chats with: Natasha Sandhu

By now, you must have heard of the extremely talented Arjun Coomaraswamy.

If not, check out our interview with him here.

Behind every successful artist is usually a very organised management team and Arjun’s is no different. However, not only is Arjun’s personal assistant committed to helping promote his talent, Natasha Sandhu is also a full-time qualified doctor, singer and model.

The Asian Destination finds out how she manages to balance being an integral member of Arjun’s management team, her own creative projects as well as a career in medicine.

Natasha Sandhu

TAD: How did you first become Arjun’s personal assistant?

NS: I first met Arjun when we were assigned to sing together at a show, over 4 years ago now! That very moment I heard him sing at our first rehearsal I thought,

“Wow this guy is destined for big things”.

I was so blown away by how humble yet talented he was which meant helping him a no-brainer. I’ve believed in him from day one and he is now one of my best friends, which is why he trusts me to be part of the team. Since then, I’ve become increasingly involved in helping with his day-to-day affairs, touring, online PR, styling etc alongside his main management, Crown.

I’ll always have his back and work hard to help his talent get recognised.

TAD: You’re a qualified doctor, what stage are you in your medical career? What is your specialty/what are you hoping to specialise in?

NS: Yes I’m a full-time working doctor now, which shocks a lot of people in the media industry. I qualified 2 years ago, so work is really busy with increasingly more responsibilities.

In the long term I want to be a General Practitioner since you build long-term relationships with patients, there is more scope for variety and I find the daily work in hospital specialities too repetitive.

Plus I’d have more flexibility to keep travelling, helping Arjun with his music, and doing my own projects, as they are all passions I cannot give up! But I love A&E so I plan to locum in that for the excitement.

I’ve also had an interest in international health promotion and human rights since I was a teenager (UN and Amnesty) so I want to take time out of clinical medicine and get more involved with that later.

TAD: Are we right in thinking as well as your PA job and medicine you’re also an aspiring singer and model? Tell us more about these other passions of yours.

NS: Err, yes I can sing English R&B/pop and have performed a lot but I’m not planning a singing career!

My favourite performances involve a Beyoncé song since I am OBSESSED with her!

If you have heard Arjun’s Kabhi Kabhi I sang in that with my ‘sister’ Shivali but I cringe singing it since I’m not fluent in Hindi (yet!).

Nowadays I don’t sing solo since it’s only been a hobby for me, and there is no time. On tour though, whether it’s Kabhi Khabhi or an acoustic cover of an English song, I love singing on tour with Arjun.

I’ve done mainly editorial modelling since I was 14, but it’s been on and off due to medicine meaning I cannot make most shoots in working hours.

It has picked up again though and I’ve had some fun shoots in the past 3 years with my agencies.

It’s something I don’t talk about much since I do it for me rather than to talk about it, and I’ve experienced girls becoming judgemental or jealous in the past so I’d rather keep most of it to myself. However, I LOVE fashion, so when opportunities have arisen I’ve taken them since I don’t want to regret it later.

TAD: Is there anything you can’t do?! Should we be looking out for you on the next series of The Apprentice?!

NS: Trust me I’m useless at SO many things! I can’t act, I can’t play a bunch of instruments I’d love to, I can’t rap (haha imagine!), I’m not as multi-lingual as I’d love to be… the list goes on! Doing multiple things doesn’t mean I’m amazing at everything I do or that I don’t wish there were other things I could do. Besides nobody multi-tasks as well as my mumI swear mothers are superhuman right?!

Natasha Sandhu

TAD: Most doctors find it difficult to juggle medicine and other personal commitments, how do you find time to balance a second career whilst also pursuing other interests as well?

NS: My dad always taught me to “work hard, play hard” so it’s down to him! Ever since I was at school, I would study but every evening I’d have a different extra-curricular activity. I just liked being busy even then. I’ve never needed 8 hours of sleep and my diary is my life – organisation is the key; you have to know when to say no and what your limits are.

TAD: How do you stop yourself from burning out? How do you relax?

NS: Spending time with family, especially my sister, and friends is important to me. It’s definitely the best way to relax – you can’t replace girly nights-in! I’ve recently tried yoga plus the occasional massage also helps! I like going to the movies, working-out, shopping, and reading.

Travelling has always been one of my favourite things in life and I have fortunately grown up going abroad to a different country with my family every year. So as manic as touring with Arjun can be at times, I do find it relaxing in itself and I want to see as much of the world as I can before I die.

Natasha & Arjun

TAD: And what advice would you give to other people out there that may have gone down one specific career path but may be thinking of switching?

NS: Actions speak louder than words so if you want to do something different even as a hobby don’t waste time! Don’t ever regret not trying something if you’re passionate about it. But take calculated risks; if you’re worried about switching careers and possibly risking everything just wean into your new path part-time. Then if you think it will work for you great, and if not at least you have tried rather than wondering ‘what if?’

TAD: What’s next for you?

NS: I will have important medical exams over the next 3 years so I can’t wait to get them done and focus on the speciality I enjoy. Arjun is releasing his first mainstream single ‘Take It Back’ very soon so I am very busy with that release (you guys will LOVE it!) and we are finalising his album and talking to international music labels. I’ll continue to travel as much as possible, stay happy, and who knows what else the future holds!

We wish Natasha all the best with her future endeavours.

Be sure to check out Natasha on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Have a listen to Kabhi Kabhi here:


If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Arjun Coomaraswamy

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani

Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Chai & Chats with: Amilla Javed

Chai & Chats with: Jesbir Bahia

from Destination: Interviews

Happy Durga Puja

Happy Kali Puja & Diwali

from Destination: Celebration

The Asian Destination Links

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

The Asian Destination Links

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

Chai & Chats with: Arjun Coomaraswamy

London-based singer, songwriter and producer, Arjun stands out from mainstream music. Mixing soulful R&B with his desi roots, it is no wonder his first four singles created such hype and has been described as one to watch internationally. The Asian Destination talks to him about his whirlwind of success and about being a rising star in the music industry.
Arjun
TAD: You were nominated as ‘Best Newcomer’ at the ‘Brit Asia Music Awards 2011’, chosen as one of ‘MTV’s Top 20 Unsigned Acts for 2012’ and your music has made it to global TV channels such as CNN, MTV India and NDTV, making you truly a ‘rising star’. You also won Best Urban Act at the UK Asian Music Awards in October 2012. We’re sure this is still only the beginning of your success. Tell us, how has the last 18 months been for you?

A:  I guess you could say that the last 18 months have been life changing for me.  I’ve been fortunate enough to perform all over the world and had the chance to meet and work with some amazing people.   Hopefully this has laid a foundation for the next step – the mainstream in the UK and US.

TAD: Your ever-increasing fan base means your YouTube music videos are being watched in the millions, you have the support of Radio DJs internationally and your performances are being requested all over the world. How does it make you feel to know your music has been so well and widely received?

Arjun

A: To be honest, it is still a shock to think that anybody other than myself and my mum could be listening to my music!  I consider it a blessing to be able to make the music I like and find that there are other people out there who like it too.

TAD: What would you say was the turning point that has marked your growing success over the last couple of years?

A: The turning point was definitely the moment when I decided to do a remix of the Tamil film song “Why This Kolaveri Di?”  That was a complete experiment and no-one was more amazed than I was  when I woke up the next morning and found that it had gone truly viral.

TAD: When did you first become interested in music? Were you always passionate about it as a career or did you (or your parents/family) have other plans for you? When did you first become interested in music? Were you always passionate about it as a career or did you (or your parents/family) have other plans for you?

A: From a very young age I used to play in various school bands, on instruments ranging from the flute to the drums.  I always dreamt of being a musician, though initially I went a more conventional route and studied Architecture at University.

TAD: As well as singing and playing a variety of instruments (including guitar and the flute), you also studied Music Production and Sound Engineering at college. The music business is a tough industry to make your mark in, yet your online popularity seems to have given you an advantageous edge. Would you say your versatility is what makes you unique?

A: I’m not sure how versatile I am!  Certainly it has helped to have had a varied musical background.  I definitely enjoy exploring different musical genres and am constantly experimenting with different options to try to come up with different sounds.

TAD: Who are your musical inspirations? If you had the choice, who would you love to collaborate with one day?

A: My main inspirations have been R&B artists like Craig David, Ryan Leslie and Donell Jones.  Right now if I had to pick a couple of artists whom I would like to collaborate with, I would say Frank Ocean and Miguel, because they are pushing the boundaries and forging a new R&B sound.

TAD: Your song about ‘Aishwarya’s Eyes’ made it to The Times of India! Are you a big Bollywood fan? You were born and brought up in the UK, how strong a connection do you keep to your desi roots? Your version of the popular Bollywood song, ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ includes covers of Nicki Minaj’s Superbass. How much does being a British Asian, influence your music?

A: I have become more interested in Bollywood music recently.  Earlier I used to watch the films for their own sake, now I am interested in them more for their soundtracks! I try to keep abreast of all the big Bollywood releases which come out.

I came to the UK at a very young age.   My parents are very Westernised, but I have a lot of British Asian friends.  I think I am fairly in touch with my Desi roots through music and through my friends.   Being a British Asian is the main factor which has influenced my music, because the music I listen to is derived from two different worlds.  This has led me to create music which resonates with other Westernised Asians around the world who represent a fusion of two cultures; this is what makes us unique.

TAD:  How do you handle criticism and rejection?

A:  The more success you have, the more people are exposed to your music and the more criticism you will face, especially when you remake classic songs.  It is important to take on board constructive criticism; you have to be strong-willed enough to take what others have to say without being put off your own course.

TAD: What advice would you give to individuals wishing to embark on music career or those that are struggling to get signed?

A: The advice I would give to individuals who want to embark on a music career is: make sure you learn how the industry operates.  You should not make getting signed your main objective.  You should develop your own sound & brand, and always try to be unique!  Focus on making music and on being you, and let labels come to you.   Use the basic tools available to you in this day and age (i.e. social media) to your advantage and get your music out to the world.

TAD: How do you react to people calling you a role model for independent music artists?

A: It is flattering if anyone considers me a role model.  Having gone the independent route thus far, I can say that one good thing about being independent is that you have complete creative control and can do everything on your own terms, without anyone telling you what to do.  It also means you can connect directly with your listeners/fans.

TAD:  Could you tell us a little bit about your new mainstream single, which is set to be released soon? Will it be available internationally? How do we make sure we know when and where to get our hands on a copy?

A: The mainstream single I hope to release soon is called “Take it Back” and is basically a tribute to old school R&B, since I would like to see R&B brought back in the mainstream.  Rather than follow what is trending and sonically in fashion at the moment, I thought it would be more interesting to carve out my own niche and make music which I genuinely believe in.  If you stay tuned to my social media sites you’ll definitely know when it’s coming out: hopefully it won’t be long now!

Arjun

Make sure you are following Arjun on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Soundcloud!

Still can’t get enough? Here’s his website for more details!

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani

Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Chai & Chats with: Amilla Javed

Chai & Chats with: Jesbir Bahia

from Destination: Interviews

Happy Durga Puja 

 Happy Kali Puja & Diwali 

from Destination: Celebration

The Asian Destination Links

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

The Asian Destination Links

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani

The Asian Destination talks to recent Fashion and Retail Management graduate, Roshni Chugani, on how she has managed to incorporate her passion for painting into a new and exciting business venture. The Bedazzled by Chugani collection comprises of hand-painted religious artwork, delicately embellished to create the perfect decorative piece for any space.

Bedazzled By Chugani

The Asian Destination (TAD): Congratulations on your Bedazzled collection! So tell us, how did Bedazzled start out?

Roshni (RC): As I grew up I was inspired by abstract colours, cultures, stones, embellishments and creativity, which drove me towards wanting to paint in my free time. During my holidays, I would make paintings of Hindu gods and give them to family members, which slowly, unknowingly spread the hidden talent I had inside me.

Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

TAD: What was the driving force that took your Bedazzled collection from being a recreational activity to a business venture?

RC: A slight push from my family and friends and a lot of spare time over the lengthy university holidays!

TAD: What made you decide to represent the line yourself instead of opting to showcase your line through another company or organisation?

RC: My paintings are more personal hence, apart from exhibitions, I take made-to-order pieces. Each painting is important in its own way; I like creating my pieces as I go, with no pressure from above. This way I have the freedom to individualise every piece of art.

Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

TAD: Your degree in Fashion & Retail Management has clearly had a great influence in helping balance channelling your creative energy with a clear business mindset. What do you think of the increasing number of graduates starting up their own businesses, rather than opt for the traditional schemes? Do you have any advice to those wanting to tap into their own unique creative talent but are hesitant about doing it alone or seek out an established company?

RC: In such a competitive world today it is a big risk to start up your own business, but I believe that if you follow your dreams and make your passion your business you will succeed, no matter what.

My mother once taught me a quote that I carry with me every day:

Strong Willpower

‘My willpower is strong and based on this, I can overcome any obstacle’

Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

TAD: What are your influences and what do you need to take into account when tailor-making a personalised piece?

RC: The biggest factor in personalised pieces is time. Being able to commit to a painting means that it must be the best piece of work I can produce. I also have to understand more about the recipient of the painting; what they want, what it will mean to them, again adding to the individual nature of the paintings.

TAD: How do you feel with the responses from Bedazzled so far? What’s next for you and Bedazzled?

RC: Bedazzled has received good recognition through word of mouth – the most powerful marketing tool. Given that the challenge is relatively new, I am still looking at better ways to market and attract more customers – without growing too big to ensure the personalisation element is not lost. Simply creating more Bedazzled paintings should market the product in itself.

Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

TAD: Are your pieces available for overseas shipping?

RC: Yes! Any of my pieces are available for overseas shipping.

Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

So how do you get your hands on a one-off piece from the Bedazzled by Chugani collection?

Email: roshnichugani@gmail.com

Find ‘Bedazzled by Chugani’ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bedazzledbychugani

or

Find ‘bedazzledbychugani’ on INSTAGRAM!
Photo by Roshni Chugani

Photo by Roshni Chugani

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

Links

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

Celebrate Being ‘Unique’

The first day of school, college or university is always accompanied by a mixture of nervous excitement and mild panic. In my case, each of these milestone events come with an added issue to stress about: ‘How would my name be prounounced this time?!’

If you are like me, you are one of those fortunate souls with a name (or perhaps multiple) that finds itself being mispronounced frequently. The name may make perfect logical sense in your family’s ethnic language, culture or religion, yet as it journeys through the English language, its pronunciation appears to get left behind.

Before my name was called in the register, there would always be a pause before the teacher or lecturer made a hesitant attempt at ‘Ananya’. Some others however, decided they were not going to even try to pronounce it and instead asked whether I had another name I preferred to be called. Thus was born an English equivalent nickname, ‘Ana’, that has stuck with me throughout most of my life. Most Indians or at least Bengalis have 2 names: a ‘good’ name (Ananya) for official documentation and a ‘dahk’ or ‘affectionate nickname’ used by friends and family. ‘Ana’ became my ‘English Dahk’ name alongside my other Bengali nicknames.

I used to go through a phase of just switching topic when anyone asked about the real pronunciation. Some were persistent and would seek out a fellow Indian in the hope of finding out my ‘real name’. Triumphantly they would proclaim they had discovered the ‘Indian way’ of saying it. However, India is a country of numerous cultures, traditions and languages. Hindi may be universally spoken but different Indian states have separate principal languages. Within these, diverse variations in dialect can also be noticed, depending on geographical location. This means that ‘Ananya’ in Hindi is pronounced much like the modified English version, only with a few softer syllables: ‘Ah-naan-ee-yah’, which is noticeably different to the Bengali pronunciation.

It is interesting that even non-Bengalis, living in an area of West Bengal (where Bengali or Bangla can be heard predominantly) will pronounce ‘Ananya’ as ‘Ah-naan-ee-yah’. Not that it bothers me. I have become accustomed to hearing variations of my name. In fact, I like to make note of the most original attempts: ‘Ah-nigh-ah’ has maintained its first place position for a number of years now, whilst the National Health Service tried to record my name as ‘Anan Ya’. To this day, however, my dentist still tries to call me ‘Anya’…

Maturity has revealed the core issue at play at adopting ‘Ana’ over ‘Ananya’. I wanted to be like my peers and therefore shied away from my full name, assumed ‘Ana’ instead and consequently the name has stuck. Yet as I have gotten older, I have come to realise that each and every one of us has quirks that make us different: misplacing items hours after being purchased, adding cheese to every meal (!), obsessing about Canadian popstars – sound familiar?! These traits are for celebrating not being ashamed of. What is it about yourself that makes you different?

Mine? So, what is my name, really?
Ananya, pronounced in Bengali as ‘O-non-nah’ (O as in ‘lot’) meaning ‘unique’, or ‘like no other’, in Sanskrit.

So today I ask, is there anything about yourself that you have been hiding or shying away from? Instead of shying away, can you embrace this about yourself and be proud? After all, without these qualities, positive or negative, we would not be who we are today, the same as everyone else– we would not be unique.

Durga Puja 2012

Whether you are well accustomed to Durga Puja or have been newly introduced to it (either through this year’s Hindi blockbuster, Kahaani or last week’s BBC episode of This Is India) this 9-10 day Hindu festival is celebrated in the millions, worldwide. Navratri and Garba celebrations occur during this time but for Bengalis, Durga Puja remains a key event in the religious and social calendar. Being British born, I envy my Indian friends and family that are able to truly relish the ‘native’ Durga Puja experience at home – a colourful chaos of sounds, smells and visions. Western schooling systems rarely permit sufficient vacation time during the pujas and therefore visiting West Bengal for Durga Puja remains on my Bucket List. However, for now I share Durga Puja celebrations through my own eyes, growing up in the UK.

Lehengas & Luchis
Since childhood, Durga Puja has always created a sense of excitement. It meant it was time to finally wear the traditional Indian lehengas, salwars or saris bought during our last India trip especially for the occasion. New clothes became a symbol of new beginnings, the colourful combinations and shimmering sequins celebrating the diversity of our culture.
After putting our hands together in prayer, bowing to the Goddess Ma Durga and blessing ourselves with the holy fire, we are allowed ‘prasad’. Prasad, in the form of fruits, Bengali sweets or coconuts are usually offered as a form of worship and after the religious rituals have been performed, are eaten, as they have now been blessed by the Goddess. Puja celebrations involve not only religious festivities but also allow a cultural mix of songs and dance, enjoyed before more puja meals.
Luchis (or Puris) are a delicious yet deceptively devilish Bengali classic – fried doughy bread usually accompanied by daal and Bengali misti (sweets).

Meeting & Greeting
As I grew up, Durga Puja gained more significance in the social calendar. It became a constant in our ever changing, hectic lives. It offered an opportunity to greet friends, old and new that had travelled far and wide for this one occasion.

Aarti & Shadhana
Along with devotional worship (aarti) comes the opportunity to cleanse the soul and carry out ‘spiritual practice’ or shadhana; a time to seek spiritual peace within yourself regardless of the chaos of the modern world around us.

Today
For me, Durga Puja today encompasses all these: ‘luchis & lehengas’, ‘meeting & greeting’ and ‘aarti & shadhana’, not as 3 separate entities but as an integrated culmination of festivities. Excitement grows as we coordinate our outfits, warm affection and emotion stirs as we embrace familiar faces and sweeten our palates. Today, it is amazing to be able to witness puja celebrations across continents through 1 effortless video call on a smart phone, live television broadcasting or through uploaded Facebook photos or statuses. However, let us not forget the real reason of our shadhana, our real cause for celebration.

Goddess or Ma Durga/Durga Ma – is believed to be mother of the universe. She is responsible for creation, preservation and destruction of the world.

‘It is believed that Ma Durga was created by gathering the strength of all the mothers. Every year the mother graces us with her presence, eliminates evil and goes back so that all of us can live happily and peacefully without fear.’

– From Kahaani, translated from the original Hindi.

So this Durga Puja, whether you are a devotee or not, may you be touched with Ma Durga’s sword of omniscient knowledge, protected from all evil by her many arms and blessed with the certainty of success.

It is thought that as we strive to form an inner peace within ourselves, we become unaffected by the circumstances we cannot alter. In doing so, we detach from the fear of the unknown and become the people we are meant to be. May we each find our inner peace this Durga Puja.

Shubo Bijoya – Happy Durga Puja 2012!