Friday Fun:: Let’s Sushi Samba

 It’s been a year since I first went to Sushi Samba but let’s just say my head might still be in the clouds…

The Asian Destination:: Sushi Samba

and with a view like this, can you blame me!?

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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

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

‘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

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand

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

Follow us on Instagram: @theasiandestination