Chai & Chats with: Madina Rahman

She may still be in high school but she has a voice way beyond her years. Madina Rahman (MR) is surely set for great things in the near future and talks to The Asian Destination (TAD) about her career plans, college and Madina Music.

Madina

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Chai & Chats with: Alix Marina-Chouhan

‘La Vie Est Belle’– Lumière Photography 

Lumiere Photography

– Well life always seems beautiful when you have Alix from Lumière Photography capturing the most precious moments of your life! The Asian Destination (TAD) catch up with Alix (AM-C) on her passion for photography and her love of Asian weddings!

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Chai & Chats with: Veena V

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From the very early age of 15, Veena V has been one to watch in the radio industry. She was awarded ‘Best Radio Presenter’ at the Channel 4 Talent Awards in 2008 and has interviewed the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Jay Sean but still has many ambitions waiting to be fulfilled. The Asian Destination (TAD) talks to Veena V (VV) on her success. 

TAD: Veena, you made your mark in the radio industry from the early age of 15. What was it about radio that made you want to pursue it as a career?

VV: I just always found it fascinating from a very young age. When I was 5 I used to make cassettes for my family and teachers of me playing song and talking in between the tracks – little did I know I had put together a radio show!

I love being on the radio it gives me such a buzz and didn’t really think of doing anything else as a career (except being a teacher, popstar, businesswoman and 100m Olympic runner when I was little!) Working in the broadcasting industry has always been my passion.

 

TAD: You have been so successful in your career already and yet you are still so young. How does it feel that many of your fans have placed you as their role model and look up to you?

VV: I wouldn’t say I’m successful and I’m no where near where I want to be in my life and still have so many ambitions I want to fulfil. Many people don’t realise I’m also a Mum so have slowed down in the last couple of years to really spend quality time with my son. Being a mum inspired me to set up a pregnancy blog called www.VIPregnancy.com to document it all.

If children aspire to be like me that’s a honour but I wouldn’t call myself a role model.

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TAD: In 2007, your Q2 RAJAR figures were 107,000 listeners and you beat the Breakfast Show figures which is really surprising. Have you faced criticism or jealousy in the industry? How do you deal with it all? And what advice would you give to individuals looking to break into the entertainment industry?

VV: My show and listener figures on Club Asia Radio has been one of my career highlights. I loved my time there and learnt a lot. I haven’t encountered any jealousy in the radio industry but I have come across many people with big egos!

I’ve actually just written a blog post about how to be a radio presenter and I made a YouTube video on my 3 biggest tips to get into the media industry. I update my blog regularly so be sure to check out lots of radio and TV presenting advice on there if you’re trying to bang down that door.

TAD: Veena, how important is your Asian heritage? And how do you incorporate your ethnicity into your everyday life. Have you found it difficult to balance cultures and traditions whilst living in a British culture and lifestyle? Was your family always supportive of your career choices?

VV: Being Mauritian is important to me but I wouldn’t say it’s built into my everyday life. I never knew the Asian music industry existed and how important it was to people until I started working at Club Asia, I was blown away by it.

My parents have always been so supportive and just want me to be happy. They really are the best parents in the world and are my role models.

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TAD: You have interviewed some huge names such as Nicole Scherzinger, Imran Khan and Jay Sean. Have you ever got really starstruck or tongue tied? If so, with whom? How do you deal with nerves on air? Who are you yet to meet that you would really love to?

VV: I don’t think I’ve ever been starstuck except when I did my first celebrity interview at the age of 16! I love Nicole Scherzinger, she’s even more beautiful in real life.

I would love to meet and interview Diddy and Richard Branson. They inspire me. I wake to Diddy’s Instagram pictures which really motivate me for the day ahead!

TAD: You already have a number of awards such as “Best Radio Presenter” at the Channel 4 (4 talent) awards in 2008, and host`The Shaadi Show’. What can we look forward to hearing and/or seeing you on next?

VV: Keep an eye on my blog for all my latest celebrity interviews and where you can hear me on the radio next www.VeenaV.com

Photo Source: veenav.com

Want more updates from Veena V? Follow her on Twitter!

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Chai & Chats with: Arjun Coomaraswamy

Chai & Chats with: Natasha Sandu

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

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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

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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

Calling All Arjun fans!

We’re excited to announce…

On Friday 2nd August 2013 we will be featuring an interview with Arjun Coomaraswamy!

Arjun

UK’s newest R&B sensation answers questions from The Asian Destination so watch this space and check back on Friday for the full interview.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with a couple of videos that led to his initial success!

You might also be interested in

Chai & Chats with: Jesbir Bahia

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Chai & Chats with: Jesbir Bahia

I’m a glass full kind of guy’

Jesbir

Graduating in 2012 and already climbing the corporate ladder, Jesbir Bahia (J) tells The Asian Destination (TAD) how he still keeps up his passion for music and what he hopes the future has in store.

TAD: Tell us a little bit about your new band. What’s the name of your band? How many band members?

J: The new band is a 4 piece, drummer, 2 guitars and a bass. No name as of yet – still working on one.

TAD: What sort of genre of music?

J: Indie, blues, jazz, rock and a bit of funk.

TAD: Do your Asian roots have any influence on the band’s music?

J: Asian roots don’t really influence the band’s music but you never know I might whip out the dhol for a song or two!

TAD: How long have you been a keen drummer? (We seem to remember you trying to teach some Uni friends in the halls library…!)

J: I’ve been drumming since I was 16 so not that long really.

TAD: Did you ever want it to become a career for you?

J: I would have loved for it to turn into a career but unless you get famous in a band or similar– there’s not much money in it. Equally, there are a lot of amazing drummers out there.

TAD: Where is your band performing at the moment? What does the future hold?

J: Not got any fixed gigs planned at the moment but it is still early days. The band has only been together for a few months but hopefully the future will go like so:

  1. Practise and become amazing (overnight if possible)
  2. Play a few gigs – get noticed – then signed.
  3. Get a number one hit within a year.
  4. Have a best-selling album.

-I think that might be a little optimistic but hey I’m a glass half full kind of guy!

Glass half full or not, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Jesbir’s band so stay tuned for regular updates!

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani , Chai & Chats with: Pavan AhluwaliaChai & Chats with: Malika Garrett and Chai & Chats with: Amilla Javed from Destination: Interviews

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and 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

Chai & Chats with: Amillah Javed

Business owner AND still a student?!

The Asian Destination (TAD) talks to Amillah Javed (AJ) about how her online jewellery company started & what makes it so unique!

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TAD: Tell us a little bit about Precious Pieces. The face behind the name, how it all started. Is this your sole profession or more a hobby that turned into a business venture?

AJ: Well, hello! My name is Amillah Javed and I am currently in my second year of University. I have always been buying sellable jewellery from EBay, local markets and ordinary high street shops and have been selling to family, friends and in my local area. As the years went by, my passion for selling jewellery increased and it didn’t take long to start selling vintage inspired jewellery and scarves under the name of Precious Pieces. Therefore, I would agree and say this started off as a hobby which I am now trying to develop further into a successful online business.

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TAD: You advertise quite a lot of your pieces on social media such as Instagram & Facebook, how do you think social networking sites have impacted on your business so far? Do you think there are downsides to it as well?

AJ: I think the world has moved on and more and more people have started using the internet, or should I say “social networking sites” to do their shopping from personal items, household grocery, gifts and much more. It is definitely an easy option to sit and browse the internet from home, work or wherever internet access is available. As a result, I think my business benefits from this because everyone (online buyers) are so addicted now and have turned online shopping into a habit. Ultimately, I believe social networking sites are powerful and are seeing a dramatic growth!

However, there are also disadvantages because an increasing number of people have started to create businesses solely through social networking, like myself. Therefore, this means I have more competition in this constantly expanding society.

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TAD: How do you feel about other rival jewellery companies working in the same way? What makes your pieces unique?

AJ: If you have the determination and enthusiasm to set up a business online, this makes it much easier to start a business. Currently, I have noticed that more and more people have started to work in this way! I’ve learnt that in any field of business, you will always find competition lurking right around the corner. So, other rival jewellery companies challenge me to become bigger and better more than anything else!

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Precious Pieces offer affordable, stylish and vintage inspired jewellery and scarves which are different, startling in design and appearance. So, whether you’re looking for that statement piece to add sophistication to your outfit or you want a quirky, unique touch – Precious Pieces have got you covered and noticed within a crowd!

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TAD: You donate 10% of your profits to charity. What are your views on corporate social responsibility?

AJ: I think that we are all capable of helping others in whatever way possible and by donating 10% of my profit to charities (chosen by my audience) is the best possible way to help the needy. Therefore, by purchasing items from Precious Pieces not only helps my business to grow but you are also helping those who are suffering and need help in this world right now!

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We have been donating to Islamic Relief towards the Syria Appeal and hope to start supporting many other charities too.

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TAD: What’s next for Precious Pieces?

AJ: We are looking forward to starting up a website soon and although we are in our early days yet, we hope to expand further and further. With the love and support we are currently receiving, we are hoping we will go far!

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Last words: WATCH THIS SPACE & check out more jewellery on Instagram: PRECIOUSPIECES13
or Facebook: www.facebook.com/PRECIOUSPIECES13

Want to get in touch with Amillah? Email her at preciouspieces@hotmail.co.uk

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Now, are you a devoted fan of The Asian Destination?

One lucky reader of The Asian Destination will win a scarf, necklace AND bracelet from Precious Pieces!

To enter this free giveaway competition,

you need tofollow @TheAsianD on Twitter

‘Like’ & tag both The Asian Destination & Precious Pieces

whilst sharing this post on Facebook:

‘Share this post to enter The Asian Destination’s free giveaway & have the chance of winning freebies from Precious Pieces’

Hurry though! You have until midnight 21st June 2013 to have a chance of winning!

Good Luck & Happy Friday!

Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Malika Garrett's Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Malika Garrett’s Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Successful Non-resident Indian Bengali artist, Malika Garrett, emigrated to the USA to study art in college. Since then she has combined her business experience with her creative passion and helped raise thousands of dollars for charity. OWN Ambassador, Malika, talks to The Asian Destination about collaborating with Deepak Chopra and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. We also discover how Deepak, Mastin Kipp & Oprah Winfrey have helped change her life.

Available at malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal in India and went to study in America before becoming the successful artist that you are today. Tell us, when did your love for art start and did you always want to pursue it as a career?

M: My love for art started as far back as I can remember. We are a family of artists, I was always around art and was taught to appreciate it from a very early age. I always loved drawing. I was forever sketching on any paper I could find. My most treasured gifts were pencils, erasers, crayons and markers! I won the class Art prize every year in my school in Kolkata. My grandparents were my first patrons and fans. They encouraged me and even bought my art! I learned service and volunteering through my art; I sold it to my grandparents at age 4 and raised money for Mother Teresa! Since then I have always volunteered and given back.

Raika Mother & Child available at www.malikagarrett.com

Raika Mother & Child available at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: Did you ever think you would be an artist?

M: No, I did not ever think I would be an artist. I was leaning towards being a business woman in the corporate world, travelling or saying, ‘Order! Order!’ and being a judge! It’s funny how I ended up being a business woman and an artist. I pursued Art in college but fell into Sales while I was working in advertising at the New York Times.

TAD: What do you miss about India/Kolkata and how important is it to you to maintain a level of Indian culture/tradition in your life?

M:I miss Kolkata and India immensely- I am always going to be Indian and Bengali first. I will never forget where I came from. I owe much of my success and the making of who I am to my childhood in Kolkata. Kolkata has shaped me and made me who I am today. It is very important for me to maintain a high level of ‘Indian-ness’ as I am married to an American and have 2 children whom I want to be a part of their mother’s culture. I am always afraid they will never know their mother’s home or know what it means to be Indian. My husband and I have since birth tried to teach my children about both cultures and encourage them to explore and ask a lot of questions.

malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Being a non-resident Indian, sometimes integrating a mixture of traditions and cultures can be a challenge, how do you deal with it?

M: I never really found it to be a challenge, in fact quite the opposite for me, since I was exposed to the world of travel from a very early age. My multiracial children however, epitomize the synthesis of two parent philosophies in a flowing, yin-yang self. They have always known Mum to be Indian and Dad to be American. Their combination of heritage makes them world citizens. In my mind, it makes them wiser too and a lot more tolerant, curious and appreciative of diversity.

TAD: Are there any typically Bengali things you miss now that you are settled in America?

M: Yes the FOOD! Daal (lentils) Bhat, (rice) LUCHI (oily, fried flat bread) and Aludom (an Indian take on mashed potato)! I also miss the Bengali traditions: Durga Puja & Bhai Phota.

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

TAD: Would we be right in assuming the inspiration behind most of your art is your time spent living and visiting India?

M:YES! Very much so! My work is mostly about the people of India – their stories , their images of strength, simplicity and courage. My work is about many from India who struggle, yet despite their challenges, are happy people. That is what I try to portray through my work: that despite their challenges their lives maintain a sense of simplicity and beauty in the midst of harsh circumstances. They don’t let their situation get in the way- they make the most of it and go on with life. They have inspired me to survive, despite the many odds I have faced as well.

'Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a "Borla" or "Rakhri", the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful' - Available at malikagarrett.com

‘Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a “Borla” or “Rakhri”, the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful’ – Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Art can be quite subjective, how do you handle criticism and negative comments?

M: I smile and take in everything they say. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. In many cases they have shown me things in my art work I haven’t seen myself. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity for me – good or bad.

There are no failures. Just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~Tom Krause

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You are one of several OWN ambassadors. For those that are unaware, please could share what it means to be an OWN ambassador?

M: The role of an OWN Ambassador is to support OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), and have a vision “To Live Your Best life. As an OWN Ambassador you can participate either via Facebook, or Twitter. We participate via Twitter Parties, Tweet Ups, Book Club/Tweet Club. You get to interact with like-minded fellow ambassadors. It’s a positive support system that lifts you up. We are a community of like- minded people having informative conversations everyday and spreading joy and love.

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

TAD: How did you become involved with Oprah and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)?

M: I met the group on Twitter because of our mutual love of OWN and my conversations with their producers about my personal story. If you would like to become an OWN Ambassador, follow @ownambassadors on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook, insert #OWNAmbassador in your profile under the Bio section, and on Twitter, use #OWNAmbassadors as the hashtag. It’s that easy! As Oprah mentioned to us and the world, we are the ‘Carriers Of Light’.

Image Source: Malika Garrett

Image Source: Malika Garrett

TAD: You have worked and come into contact with a variety of prominent people including Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Mastin Kipp. These individuals, amongst many others, are known to all be committed to ‘living their best life’. What have you learnt from working with them that you could share with us?

M: Each one has taught me so many lessons that resonate with me but one that screams out is what Oprah has said over and over again- ‘Life happens not to me, but for me’!– She has really changed my life.

Also Dr. Chopra’s teaching that ‘Holding on to resentment is like holding your breath’– has made me look at forgiveness in a whole new light.

I try to remember every day:

‘We all can receive atonement through service’

‘We are all spiritual beings having a human experience’

‘Vulnerability is the Birthplace of Creativity and Change’– Brene Brown

Mastin Kipp & Malika Image Source: Malika Garrett

Mastin Kipp & Malika (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

I have also learnt not to hold myself hostage for my past and that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

As Maya Angelou said to Oprah

“ When you know better you do better!’

I am SO grateful for all of these wonderful folks you mention and others who have helped me enhance my spirit and not drain my power. Each day they have given me a new breath of life!

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser. Image Source: Malika Garrett

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

TAD: You have recently been involved in a Akshaya Patra (AP) fundraiser – congratulations on its success! Could you tell us a bit about the charity and the event?

M:They are an amazing organization and I am proud and honoured to be a part of them.

Please check out their website and get involved- everyone can make a difference- it only takes $15 to feed one child for one year a hot meal served in school everyday! Founded in 2000, the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mission is that “no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” and its next goal is to feed five million children daily by 2020. Currently they are feeding 1 million children every day. The foundation is a strategic intervention in education aimed at breaking the vicious and perpetual cycle of poverty.

Image Source: foodforeducation.org

Akshaya Patra Foundation (Image Source: foodforeducation.org)

TAD: How did you come to be involved in it?

M: My journey with AP started a few months back, in December, while I was in conversation with Dr. Chopra. He happened to mention that he was coming to Atlanta. He invited me to get involved with Akshaya Patra and I was thrilled. I had nothing to give but my creativity. I offered to do a collaborative painting with him for their fundraiser in Atlanta. The event was last week and was a massive success. The event raised over $400 K and my painting brought in $50K. Because of our collective efforts 26,000 children will be fed a hot meal in India. How cool is that?

Mandanganj Women and Child at www.malikagarrett.com

Mandanganj Women and Child at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: This is not the first fundraiser your art has featured in, you also joined forces with Robin Raina in ‘India on Canvas’ where artwork was also auctioned for charity in order to help under-privileged children in India.

As mentioned, the volunteer and service bug bit me at a very early age in Kolkata. I was always wanting to help to give whatever I had to whoever I saw needed something. In addition to raising money for Mother Teresa’s missionaries for charity, I taught classes to the children of the household help. Robin Raina and I partnered together for ‘India on Canvas’ and then with Shashi Tharoor in 2008 for the same charity.

TAD: So, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing more of your art being exhibited soon or featuring in another worthwhile fundraising event soon?

M: No immediate plans- but that can change tomorrow! I am always excited about new collaborations and ventures.There are some smaller ones in the works but none I can name yet.

TAD: How does one get their hands on a Malika Garrett piece? Are they available for shipping?

M: My art work is on my website at www.malikagarrett.com you can also ‘like’ me on facebook.com/MalikaGhoshGarrett and follow me on twitter @MalikaGhosh

Malika’s blog: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wordpress.com/

and check out: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wix.com/malikagphotography

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The Asian Destination Links

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

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination

Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Photo Source: pavanonline.com

Photo Source: pavanonline.com

Self-taught henna artist, Pavan Ahluwalia holds the world record for painting 511 unique armband designs in just one hour. The Asian Destination (TAD) talks to Pavan (P) about how she has integrated her passion into a successful career and also gives us tips on achieving the perfect mehndi!

TAD: Congratulations on being the Guinness World Record Holder for fastest henna and on becoming one of the UK’s leading henna artists! 

Many of us like to experiment around with henna; during the excitement and togetherness of Asian weddings, applying henna can be a social event as well as a tradition. When did you see henna art as more than just a fun past time or ritual? Have you always been interested or involved in art?

P: It was at family functions as you said, where everyone would get involved in the henna fun and I wanted to be a part of it! I would do designs on family and friends and I started doing it at every function I was invited to.  When I learned that it could be turned into a career I jumped at the chance as it was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.  I did Art GCSE but my main foundation through college and university was business, which helped me turn my passion into a career.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: What would be your advice for achieving the perfect henna? How do you ensure your colour remains even? It can be one of the most frustrating things to spend time on detailed, intricate designs only to realise the henna colour fades quickly. What suggestions do you have for enhancing the colour?

P: The perfect henna relies very much on the consistency, a thin paste ensure the flow of your designs.  It’s essential to bring out the colour and after care is also important.  Our body temperature also plays an important part in the colour deepening, so keeping the hand over the gas (at a safe distance) works great on making the colour deepen and maintains it for longer.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: Many of us will be quite familiar with the ‘lemon and sugar’ (squeezing lemon juice and applying sprinkles of sugar to the henna) method to allow a better colour, do you have any other ways? 

P: This method and the heat works great, however all ingredients are in the henna cone that I  make myself so a lot of that is not needed. You can literally have the henna done and let that do the work for you.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: You have already worked with big names such as Alesha Dixon, The Sugababes and Selfridges. Tell us how you came to do the famous Harrods window displays?

P: The Harrods window display was an honour for me, they had an A-Z of style in their windows and appointed me with the letter E for Embellishment.  I embellished a mannequin with my designs and the display was up for 6 weeks!

TAD: You have become an established entrepreneur and sought after henna artist, are there more exciting projects we can expect to see you involved in?

There are! I will be announcing a few in the coming months so keep an eye out!

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Keep an eye out for new updates from Pavan at pavanonline.com, on Facebook or Twitter: @PAVAN_HENNA.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and 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

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

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