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A salute to our 'Nari Shakti' aving a quick glance of the content of this humble effort to salute our 'Nari Shakti', my memory stretch to the day I reached London Heathrow, way back in November 1966. I had a written note with me on how to catch a coach to Victoria terminus, but I was tempted to ask someone to ensure that I follow the correct route. In the arrival lounge, I saw an Indian looking lady with 'kara' in her hand, assumed that she is of Punjabi Sikh origin. I greeted her 'sasriyakal' and she was very happy. I must concede that to see her doing what she was- mopping the floor, was very shocking in the first instance. She was very kind and without any prompting she used few words to express her 'Shramdaan' to contribute to her household budget. Some years later I was running a newsagent shop at 280 Western Road, Southall. One early evening she entered the shop with her four siblings and we recognised each other, though hesitated in the beginning. A week after the meeting it was Rakshabandhan and she came to tie me a rakhi. She was a little older than me and 'that' holy thread sustained enormously through the ups and downs of the life. Satvinder Kaur was her name and subsequently I know her children have progressed very well through excellent education, added with family bond. I remember once she told me, “whether we are Satvinder or Savita or Salma- we are all called as 'Sue'.” You will meet several 'Sues' in this special issue. They are mothers and sisters, have worked very hard, sacrificed so much to ensure that their family, siblings and the future generations are well settled. Let's face the facts. Predominantly all Asian communities are 'man oriented' and men folk have preferential treatment from the child birth. Inspite of such a hurdle our daughters, sisters, wives and friends participate and excel in education, professions, business, commerce, arts, culture, community life, philanthropy as well as motherhood. This special issue is a culmination of the hard work of Rupanjana Dutta, our Associate Editor, her team of dedicated correspondents, Rovin George and his sales colleagues. Also without the generous supports from the sponsors and advertisers, such publications are not possible. A big thank you to all.

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s one of the 5 Asian women MPs elected in 2010 we have at last taken our place in the House of Commons. One of my first successes was being part of establishing a memorial sculpture to an Asian woman, Noor Inayat Khan. We have faced many obstacles but this is particularly true of previous generations, whose roles were often supporting and nurturing their families. The contribution of our mothers’ generation, often in the fields of education and medicine, or as the unseen business partner, should not be understated or overlooked. We celebrate our achievements for them, as well as ourselves.

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Valerie Vaz MP Member of Parliament, Walsall South

With best wishes CB Patel Publisher/Editor Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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Simrin Choudhrie: Mumpreneur to Community support imrin Choudhrie is not your typical 30 year old. Not only does Simrin run a blossoming interior design company, she also makes time to work closely with several charities that are close to her heart as well as pursuing her passions for art, antiques, fashion and sports. Simrin married her childhood sweetheart Bhanu Choudhrie, who is the Executive Director for a worldwide investments company C&C Alpha Group. He is a successful venture capitalist and the two are now based in London. Simrin is a mother to Kabir, a feisty 2 year old with big plans of his own. He is full of life and constantly keeps her on her toes. Professionally, Simrin is the Creative Director at Bach Interiors Ltd. Following her passion for interior design and after studying at the Inchbald School of Design, it was a natural direction for Simrin to set up her own company. Bach Interiors is a part of many projects including residential homes, restaurants, bars and various different gradients of hotels. Simrin thrives on a mix of work and play. Even though it is challenging to simultaneously run a home, raise for a child, manage a business and care for the community, Simrin seems to do so with much ease. Simrin has been involved in a range of challenges and opportunities; some of which include working with Simon Hughes MP on his mayoral campaign in 2004, to assisting with the London Bid for the 2012 Olympics. In 2008, Simrin worked alongside Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP and his team for a campaign against Human Trafficking. This involved operations throughout Europe including meetings at the Senate in Rome, which she found incredibly rewarding. Simrin was later honoured for her work by receiving the European Diversity Champion award later that year. In the winter of 2010, Simrin was able to get involved in the social work that she was desperate for by taking part in channel four’s The Secret Millionaire. Simrin was under the guise of a mum-to-be, looking for voluntary work in Sheffield. She was welcomed by the St Wilfrid’s centre and Rainbow’s End charity shop, both of which she continues to support. This was a great achievement for Simrin, being able to get actively involved in helping those who really need it. Simrin was also championed for her business and philanthropic work in 2012. She received the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award, which was a great end to the year. Despite Simrin’s involvement in the design industry, she has always felt an intense

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sense of social responsibility. Coming from a Hindu background, social work, charity and philanthropy have been ingrained into her inherent being. As a result, she makes a concerted effort to ensure that giving back to the community is an integral part of her way of life. This is evident when you realise the number of causes that Simrin devotes her time to. None more so than the St Wilfrid’s centre based in Sheffield; a day centre for homeless, vulnerable and social excluded individuals. Although the distance is restricting, Simrin manages to play an active role in the running of this charity through her efforts in fundraising and awareness raising. Simrin is also the Director for London based charity Path to Success, whose role is to take responsibility for the improvement of human condition and to share goodwill within the UK and overseas. PTS has supported several charities and trusts over the past 8 years including Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, India and Crisis, UK. Simrin’s philanthropic nature also extends to animals, and in 2011, Simrin became a trustee for the Mane Chance Sanctuary which exists to help ill, abused and abandoned animals and horses. Their first task was to rescue 40 horses and subsequently raise £1m to buy a farm to home the animals. Since achieving this and nursing the animals back to health, the board recognised the therapeutic nature of the time spent with horses. As a result MCS now works in conjunction with disability challengers (a school for children with mental and physical disabilities) and Shooting Star CHASE Hospice, giving children the chance to interact with and reap the calming benefits of the horses. Simrin’s next challenge is working towards the vision of setting up a holistic centre for the treatment of mental problems of animals and people alike, on site. Plans to set up a green café are also underway. Simrin’s aims for the future include launching a nationwide campaign to see ‘the community support the community’. This will start in the coming year with the launch of a mentoring scheme, which will see children of school age giving 1 hour per week to a charity/social cause. The aim is to eventually make regular social work mandatory for all school children. This will also encourage parents to get involved and as a result Simrin hopes to see a more integrated caring system. As well as continuing with the design business and bringing up her little boy, Simrin certainly has a busy year ahead!

Simrin Choudhrie

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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Comedian Shazia Mirza talks Celebrity, Culture and Social Psychosis! e met with Shazia on a calm winter’s day at a quaint little café in Highgate. It was the perfect environmental repose after a long strenuous night. She had been working on her latest stand-up ‘Cuckooland’, a candid tongue-incheek title that was also very fitting...“You have to a bit 'deluded' to achieve anything" she proclaimed. "People who changed the world were deluded. Barack Obama- he used to be deluded!” Though arrestingly audacious at times, Shazia's unique brand of sophisticated yet street-wise humour will always keep you compelled “people recognise me from television as a newsreader; it's culturally acceptable for women to be passive like that. All these glamm’d up Asian babes, are there factories churning them out!? Being a comedian is more dynamic- really, what I do is hardcore journalism.” The raw delivery of contemporary truths certainly plays a huge part in comedy, and Shazia has that well-developed sensitivity to cultural and social politics. The audience laughs because of dawning realisation “When I'm on a tour in India for example, there are certain things more relevant. They relate to topics like family, marriage, skin lightening! You have to see if material is funny by thinking about the audience and connecting with them- it’s hard work” It is hard to imagine her peppy intellect entering into anything but comic performance- after all she is the only established Asian female in the British comedy circuit, has a cutting-edge feminist documentary with the BBC and can boast weekly columns in ‘The Guardian’ and ‘New Statesmen’- but as Shazia explained, it was a tough tussle with the universe to pry out that desired fate; “I grew up in Birmingham. It was grim. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. I just didn't get it: they work long hours; they don't get paid that much. Many Asians think it is prestigious, but what’s the use if you’re unhappy? I did a degree in Bio-chemistry to get out. I hated it but wanted to avoid going home. Then I did a PGCE became a teacher. I hated teaching, but went to evening drama classes, started doing comedy. I was a dreamer wanting to get out.”

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Of course during this explicit multicultural version of Alice in Wonderland, otherwise known as Shazia‘s life, her path has also crossed with other peculiar urban characters like current rapper Dizzee Rascal- which is the Cheshire Cat, and which the young protagonist is really open to debate… “He was a student when I taught at Tower Hamlets. But no matter how bad the school or situation, if someone believes in you, puts in the time and effort you can do anything. That's what happened with Dizzee- when he got kicked out of a lesson they let him sit in the music room and do what he wanted- he composed.” Bold thinking has even propelled Shazia to her ancestral country Pakistan despite dangers of the Taliban “When I was there, they were infiltrating Karachi. All entertainment was word of mouth, but everyone has a sense of humor. These conservative men in India and Pakistan must have laughed!” Ultimately, an intensive negotiation of subjectivity growing up, has made Shazia that much more the inquisitive maverick so instrumental in her entertainment success today “India’s real beauty is Kerala, houseboats floating on the river, but the train is always full of white-English going to Goa, the Ibiza of India. Middle-class women go to find themselves through yoga- you can do that in Britain!” The light-hearted familial anecdotes in her written installments, and nonchalant cosmopolitan conscientiousness in her shows, demonstrate a full-circle embrace, or should I say electric-buzzer handshake with traditional Asian roots “In India nobody actually cares about religion. Gandhi never talked about religion; he talked about Hindus and Muslims together, spirituality and peace. Here atheism is a fashion; that's the problem with working democracy. People have voices but then everybody feels the need to be heard." Now an intrepid vociferous spirit riding the next wave of post-modernism, throwing observational gems like 'the only thing worse than having a daughter is having a funny one' and whose decision to wear a hijab appears contingent on her mood, this witty madam is unlikely to lose momentum anytime soon.

Shazia Mirza

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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Whether Asian or not, it is a tough business to break into runa Seth has been the owner of her luxury shoe brand for about four years. Originally studying at the prestigious London College of Fashion, she has developed to her business over the years, gaining international recognition. Being a child of a father who is Indian, and mother who is Jamaican means that she shares the tastes of both cultures. Frequently visiting her family home in New Dehli has kept her in touch with her Indian heritage and has influenced much of her work as a designer. With a brief career in Investment Banking and a family heritage in shoemaking for 40 years, she has gained inspiration from her father and has been able to develop her business acumen and efficiency. Aruna believes that her father has worked incredibly hard all his life, in order to construct a successful shoe empire. “My father encouraged me to work within the company from a young age. I was selling other children's trainers at school and in the office around designers”. With her father as her inspiration, Aruna Seth developed the same kind of work ethic. “I can always ask my Dad for advice on anything from the finances of the business to the design of the shoes”. She spent much of her childhood visiting factories around the world, which later led her to work in her father's warehouses and factories over the summer holidays, helping with shoe orders. “It is a tough business to break into whether your Asian or not”. Fashion requires you to “preserve your brand” and it is hard having to continuously push for buyers, celebrities and journalists. However, she recognises that having an Asian background has contributed to her success, because she receives constant support from the community and the press within it. Her Indian background has a profound influence on her designs too. “India has a strong influence on my designs, the colours and crystals are so vivid in this country, you can't help but think about them when you design.” Starting in the height of the recession and being a new brand can always be a lit-

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tle “tough”. Major brands such has Jimmy Choo and Louboutin have both been active and popular for many years, and fashion editors began to comment that it was time for a new brand to be on the scene. “The quality of our shoes speaks for itself.” The major breakthrough point for the brand into the fashion industry arrived when Pippa Middleton was seen wearing the “now infamous silver lynn sandal with a green Temperley dress” at the Royal Wedding day. “It was great because this image of Pippa made it into so many publications and our brand recognition grew internationally.” Whilst receiving orders from clients abroad, they also broke into the shoe boudoir in Harrods. Aruna recalled that her earliest encounter with fashion came when she was playing with her mother's shoes. “She had a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes with butterflies on them.” This is where the inspiration for the signature white stone butterfly design attached to every shoe and bag emerged from. As designers, Aruna Seth likes to differentiate themselves from others, because of the special padding in their shoes being the USP for their brand. The shoes are not only glamourous, but also provide cashmere like comfort for feet. Goldie Hawn wore Aruna Seth's Cinderella shoes covered with 3,000 Swaroski crystals to a Nine Film Premiere in New York in 2009, impressed with the comfort factor, commented saying: “The minute I put them on, I did not want to take them off. They are so comfortable... and for evening shoes, that's saying a lot.” There have been many highlights for Aruna Seth during her career from appearing on E! News and being interviewed by Catt Sadler at Corinthia Hotel, seeing Pippa Middleton wear their to attending the Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. A great deal of focus has been on the US in the past few years for the brand, however they are now looking towards Asia, as they love to shop there! “The butterfly is a sign of good luck out in Asia, so this has certainly helped to promote the brand and sales!” Aruna Seth is keen to build a classic brand which stands the test of time!

Aruna Seth

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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Shweta Jhajharia: Inspiring excellence in business ■ Rupanjana Dutta & Romil Patel multi-award winning business coach, Shweta Jhajharia started her career with one of the world's largest fastmoving consumer goods companies and was part of the senior management team in eight years. . Currently a Partner and Principal Coach with ActionCOACH, Shweta's achievements include some of the coveted awards for 'Number 1 Coach in Europe', 'EMEA SalesCOACH' & 'World's Fastest Growing Coaching Business' out of more than 1400 coaches globally. She has consistently been London Coach of the Year since 2009. ActionCOACH is a business coaching and training company which helps business owners achieve their maximum potential, through building their expertise in sales, marketing, business development, business management, and team building. Originally from a rural family background in Rajasthan, north-west India, Shweta's father was the first in his family to break the generations-old tradition of being a subsistence farmer- a form of farming whereby enough food is grown to feed the farmer and their family, leaving little to no surplus for trade. “My father was the first to break away through education and progressed to senior management positions in one of the largest metal companies in the world,” she said. This afforded her the opportunity to study in some of India's finest learning institutions including the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM). Working with Unilever, Shweta built up a wealth of knowledge and experience in marketing, sales and business development and she describes her position as Global Marketing Knowledge Manager as “one of the best white collar marketing management jobs anywhere in the world.” However despite of her raging success, Shweta was looking for something more fulfilling than a job.“ After spending 8 years building a career with Unilever, I was looking for something more fulfilling than being a cog in a large organisation. This is where my husband, who himself was in a white collared job, encouraged me to give

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Shweta Jhajharia

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

running my own business a shot, especially since business coaching is an upcoming and growing profession. We also had an option to buy a franchise, so it was not completely getting in at the deep end. My parents were quite resistant at first - they felt I had worked so hard to build a successful career and I would be giving it all up. Finally, more for their sake than mine, I accepted an offer from Unilever to not resign but take a sabbatical and come back to join the company after 6 to 9 months. Needless to say, once my business picked up, there was no looking back for me and for my parents. For Shweta, a clear strategy and strong relationship is the key to striking a healthy work-life balance. She says: “A lot depends on having a good and understanding partner. Everyone needs to think deeply and define what their goals are and what will make them happy – in the short run and in the long run. “My first question to myself is always How do I get a successful career AND a happy family? There is no reason it should be one without the other.” Shweta's success is underlined by a trophy cabinet that is bursting with numerous awards. There is one award which stands out to her above all the others. “I think that the most important one has been my 'Global Best Client Results' award,” she said. Her clients have achieved phenomenal and consistent growth over the last four years despite the crippling recession that hit Europe, “One of the things I enjoy about what I do is that success can be measured and is not woolly at all. Being able to objectively make a difference to the bottom line of the businesses I work with, and so much so that their combined improvement in results is the best across companies being coached by more than a 1400 coaches across the world – that gives me immense happiness,” she added. Summing up the satisfaction in inspiring someone to excel in whatever they do, Shweta confessed, “Interestingly, each award my son gets, be it for Sports or for Academics, gives me more fulfilment than all my awards put together.”


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Priya Vekaria: “One must have a genuine passion and belief in their product” ■ Kruti Patel & Romil Patel ike the vast majority of second generation British Asians, university was a prescribed path for Priya Vekaria, but it also served as a useful platform to discover her passion for the lucrative wedding and events industry and cultivate her skills in hair and makeup before going on to launch her own successful business. Priya, a self taught hair and make-up artist took up her hobby as her profession, and Mehndi artist. She now travels all over the country for the cilent's special day. Organising events began from her preparing for her own and her sister's wedding. Preparing for your own wedding can be make stress levels soar due to the time, costs and number of companies involved for everything from intricate hairstyles to lavish table arrangements, and the experiences of her own wedding – as well as her sister's – motivated her to start her own venture which offered custom packages to take the burden off the bride yet cater to their wishes. “I spent a considerable amount of time researching the industry so that we could have our dream wedding,” she recalls. “It became frustrating dealing with several companies for different aspects; we were not willing to compromise on quality. This was the start of Events In Style.” Unlike the others, Events In Style puts the emphasis on collaborating with the future couple to ensure their day is what they imagined it to be. “We work with the client to understand what they are looking for, and build a bespoke package for them,” she says. “Whether it be for Mandaps, venue decorations, centrepieces, stage decor, chair covers, marquees, floral arrangements, bridal hair, make-up and mehndi services we are one-stop shop for all types of wedding and event management requirements!” Whilst only in her final year of university, Priya began laying the foundations for a successful career in business by getting involved in her father’s newfound business, Klynstone, a company specialising in stone worktops, tiles, kitchens and bathrooms. “My father has always been entrepreneurial and that has definitely rubbed off on me,” she says. “Balancing my final year

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at university with a business start-up was definitely a challenge!” Despite the demands, however, she soon realised that as the only female in the team, she brought a unique touch to the company which allowed her to express her artistic abilities in various ways. “I was able to bring a different dynamic by having input in the design team,” she says reflecting on the lessons she learned and the positive touch that she brought to Klynstone. “The expansion of the company has meant I have been fortunate enough to utilise my skills developed through education, into the working world.” The considerable demands of running two successful businesses coupled with a busy family life is reason enough to scale down one’s workload, but Priya rejects this notion for a variety of reasons. She believes her recipe for success is down to good support, a belief in what she does but most importantly it is her will to succeed that has led her so far in business during an economically challenging period. She also knows that there is plenty of room for growth for both ventures and she continuously listens to feedback to improve service to clients. “Firstly, having the support network is something that cannot be replicated. My husband’s family and especially my mother-in-law have been fantastic and I would struggle without their support!” she says. Next is her utter conviction in what she does. “One must have a genuine passion and belief in their product. Having a hobby is great but turning that into a successful business brings challenges of its own. In my experience, staying head strong, focused and enthusiastic will all help in becoming a successful businesswoman” she says with an air of triumph. Life’s most valuable lessons, however, have been handed down by a central figure to everybody. “Probably one of the more notable influences in my life has been my fantastic mother. She has taught me to be patient, determined and disciplined, in everything that I do,” she says touchingly. “A mother’s hand to support their child is like no other and I can truly say that without the guidance and moral compass from her, I would never have had the courage to try different things.”

Priya Vekaria

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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Ending the spectre of child marriage ■ Kanwal Ahluwalia at cross-legged in her village home in rural Bangladesh, Sabrina spoke with a steely grit that defied her 17 years. “At home no-one listens to a child, but when we work together people listen,” she enthused, reminding me how resilient young women can be, even when faced with crushing adversity. Sabrina was one of a group of young girls who have been trained by global children’s charity Plan UK to act as advocates in their communities against the spectre of child marriage. As Plan’s Gender Advisor, I was lucky enough to visit a project in Bangladesh recently to support their work to end this violent violation of women and girls’ rights. Sabrina’s group works together to influence their parents and communities about the causes and negative consequences of child marriage. Preventing violence against women and girls has been central to me since I first started working in international development some 18 years ago. Violence comes in many forms and one form is child marriage, where girls are married off before the age of 18, often without consent. This is a fundamental breach of human rights – girls are usually forced out of education and the potential for gaining the skills for a job. They are married to men, often much older than them, limiting their ability to have a say in their new households. These young girls can face the threat of violence because of the unequal power relations between them, their husbands and their new families. Many girls face pressure to have children before they are biologically or psychologically ready.The reasons for child marriage are complex and vary hugely from area to area. In Bangladesh, more than two-thirds of girls are married before they are 18. More than one in ten of married young women give birth to their first child before the age of 15. Certain factors make child marriage more likely to happen – prevailing discrimination against girls, driving poverty, the pressure of conflict and natural disasters. Blaming the parents is easy but actually many of them feel that marriage is a way to ‘protect’ girls ensuring that they avoid premarital sex and bringing shame to their families. So, child marriage is, at its core, wrapped up in beliefs about the role of girls and women in society as well as ideas about

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Kanwal Ahluwalia, Plan UK’s Gender Advisor

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women’s sexuality and wider freedoms about choice and decision-making. Plan’s work in rural Bangladesh is a holistic programme to tackle the different drivers behind child marriage. It includes supporting girls to feel more able to discuss child marriage issues with their parents, talking to communities about the importance of girls’ rights and gender equality, as well as helping parents to access government school stipends to encourage them to send their girls to school. We work with government officials to prevent child marriage, including ensuring girls’ births are registered to provide documentation of their age; and working with other local organisations to lobby for stronger laws to protect girls. Slowly but steadily, attitudes towards girls are changing. When once parents would hold competitions about how young they could marry off their daughters and reduce the costs of dowries as a result, now they work together to prevent child marriages taking place in their villages. And this grassroots work is not confined to Bangladesh. In India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and across Asia Plan is seeing success with this approach. This is something Plan does In India, Bangladesh and across Asia, supporting girls in communities to help fulfil their own potential. We have seen huge strides in the emancipation of women in recent years and nowhere better demonstrates how far we have come and yet the distance still to travel than India, from where my family originate. In a country with three times as many billionaires as the UK, and two of the world’s richest women, tradition and progress clash daily, often with tragic consequences. The highly publicised gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi earlier this year was yet another reminder of the lower status afforded to women and girls and the general acceptability of violence towards women. A global outcry, by women and men, many of them young who have had enough of staying silent, was testament to the power of people coming together to make a stand. This mass mobilisation is key to ensure Sabrina and millions of other girls across Asia get the support they need to fulfil their own potential. To f ind out more visit http://www.planuk.org/what-we-do/campaigns/because-iam-a-girl/get-involved/take-the-vow/


Geeta Sidhu-Robb: I“f you can dream it, you can make it happen ■ Rupanjana Dutta eeta Sidhu-Robb is a multi-award winning entrepreneur and the founder of Nosh Detox, a company offering bespoke health packages and unique, natural health solutions to achieve optimal well-being. Born as a Punjabi Sikh, Geeta grew up in Malawi, South East Africa before migrating to Britain. After working as a Corporate Lawyer and British Politics, Geeta moved to the nutritional sector when her baby son grew allergies to his vaccinations. With homeopathy skills that she had acquired from her mother and grandfather, she utilised them to research on the effects of healthy and nutritional foods on body and possible alternative therapies, finally acquiring a cure for her son. And Nosh detox was born. Speaking about the differences between Nosh detox and similar companies offering health solutions, Geeta said, “Our health solutions are holistic. We approach you as a person and your health as a part of you. People look at weight loss for example without understanding that the body, only puts on excessive weight if it’s out of balance in some way. So people with stress issues end up with tummies and just can’t shift that weight. Thyroid causes swelling all round. Sugar cravings can mean you have a mineral imbalance. Hair loss can be from lack of vitamins.” With a client base that started initially had her friends and family circle, now comprises primarily of women between the ages of 27 to 50. Nosh detox is also popular amongst men (14% of her clients are men) including celebrities like Giorgio Armani. Nosh detox has about 10 programmes, and the best suited for a particular client can also be customised if needed. However their retail products have hit the shops now (www.therawsmoothie.com), will be launched at Tesco and Waitrose in summer and franchises will be open soon in three countries outside the UK. A super woman and a super entrepreneur, how easy has her journey been? “Well it’s easier now when my children are a little older,” said Geeta. “Basically I am very Indian and ‘live above the shop’. The basement of my house is my

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office and our commercial kitchens are in a separate location. So the kids come home and I’m there. “When I left my ex-husband we had built up a company together that was very successful and had a lavish lifestyle. When I left, we didn’t get any of that and spent 6 months sleeping on my friends' floor because we were homeless. That definitely changed me and made me who I am today, ” she added. Discussing her business challenges, including those faced particularly for being a woman, Geeta elaborated, “I still face obstacles because I am a woman. When we went fundraising last year, a couple of the potential funders actually patted me on the head and called me ‘sweet’. “I am not sure they thought I knew what I was doing... “Also as far as challenges in businesses are concerned, there were and are mainly two issues. 1. the challenges of growth. We need to put in systems and processes to help the growth each time we grow – which is often. 2. Cashflow and funding. Like all small businesses we don’t always have the cashflow to grow the way we want, so, we have to be very creative to improve sales, cut costs and generally do whatever we can do to make it work.” But her lists of achievements do not end here. While in business, she rose from the ashes like a phoenix, she also won the Exceptional Working Mother awards at 11 Downing Street, nominated by her God daughter, for being a 'super mum' by every means. This achievement was followed by her meaty role in a Panasonic washing machine advert, that portrays her manifold responsibilities beautifully. Geeta has seen it all, from ruin to riches, a hero in literal terms, what's her advice to women who want to follow her footsteps in business? “You never fail, you just gave up too soon,” added a vociferous Geeta. “Women are born with the inherent traits to be absolutely amazing entrepreneurs – we are flexible, strong, pliable, loyal, willing to learn, happy to take advice and work very bloody hard. "I have a saying - change is inevitable, suffering is optional. Anything is possible. If you can see it, you can do it; if you can dream it, you can make it happen."

Geeta Sidhu-Robb

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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14-15-Bal Chohan X 1 half_A4 Temp 10/07/2013 13:45 Page 14

Bal Chohan: The Beatific Commerce of Fashion and Beauty ■ Sunetra Senior delightful and devoted individual, and contributor to well-noted fashion magazines such as Asiana and Asian Woman, style guru Bal Chohan created her image consultancy business My Signature Style in 2009. Located in the urbane Mayfair district, chalking up many a satisfied customer and preparing to expand into India, we see all the outer markings of a robust and thriving company, but what is behind it all- the soul so to speak? As Bal talked about approaches to styling, her career path, and the plans quite literally in store for the future, she unraveled for us the fabric of benign imagination supporting her dazzling corporate image. Advising clients about their style and recommending the respective garments is just one half of the business. The stylist gently explained “it’s not all about the clothes, you need to be true to yourself and let your clothes express your personality.. That first hour of consultation is key as it allows you to truly getting to know the person. For instance, I have a client who prefers a classic style which for her is very traditional. They like to match everything with their outfit including their jewellery, bag and shoes and that’s absolutely fine. This defines who they are and what they like, so we modernize it and bring that out. I believe that the clothes become part of you, so that you see the person, not the dress first”. So, fashion accessories are really festoons where personality is integral. The line between business consultant and emotional counsellor is a fine silky one “It’s about confidence. When we look good, we stand tall and speak confidently. This affects everyone, regardless of who you are, for example, a corporate person walking into a sales pitch, whether they are male or female, will be more confident if they know they look good as it builds an armour around you. You become aware of yourself and can come across more approachable. Style is a lasting effect and your wardrobe should reflect your lifestyle. A good stylist will ensure you have the right clothes in your wardrobe which should pro-

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Bal Chohan

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

vide you with convenience so that you are able to put together outfits easily and this is regardless of your budget. I sometimes see actresses on the red carpet who are clearly uncomfortable. They’re not smiling naturally and perhaps fidgeting because the outfit is not really them.” Bal favourite look is the “minimalist” and which uses “simple” lines, examples of which can be seen on the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy or Sonam Kapoor, she announced 'I love the understated look.' Bal’s ambition is “for the British Asian Woman to be known as effortlessely chic similar to their French counterparts.” The focus on inner sparkle is not just a product of professional speculation; Bal draws a lot from personal experience. She loved experimenting with clothes from a young age, but coming from a traditional Asian background was initially discouraged: “Beauty wasn’t important. You were recognised for brains, but feeling good means having both. Having commercial skills alone, I always felt incomplete. When you’re well-dressed you automatically feel better. Loosing someone very close shook me into action, as I didn’t want anyone to go through what we as a family went through, I wanted to help build people’s confidence. I just started exploring courses,styling etc and My Signature Style followed. My family dismissed the endeavor at first but when they saw the positive effect it had on people they started to encourage me...” Here, Bal passionately interjected a succinct motto for Asian women in the arts; “perseverance!”- Fittingly, a fervent affirmation of the self. Now with the completion of education from the London College of Fashion and with Topstylista, and make up by ITV celebrity make up artist Sue Sian, alongside her training in commerce- MBA from Aston Business School- the analytical and artistic aspects of her trade bolster each other in a beneficial way, sharpening attention to the finer details that help materialize that psychological link with attire “I always look at the client’s body-shape, colour, facial contouring and their personality. I work with a variety of designers, to


14-15-Bal Chohan X 1 half_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 15:30 Page 15

give the client a wide a choice. Different body shapes and designers work on different people, take a Vivienne Westwood suit, its simple, suits a hourglass but there's always a twist of playfulness- a frill or cheeky brooch somewhere, expressing the designers personal touch”. Musing on her recent visit to Chandighar India for a better feel of the Indian fashion market, Bal commented further on the aesthetic particulars; on the integration of British and Asian trends exhibiting the deeper beauty of international cultural mergence. Indian designs need to be enhanced to enter the British Asian market and vice versa to capture the culture differences. “The Asian influence on designers means that clothes are designed with the Asian market in mind. For instance, Marchesa’s SS13 collection was all about dresses made from sari material or Karl Lagerfiel’s Bombay Collection with the metallic or embroidery jackets. A night out to the opera straight from work, would look good with a indian style jacket over a plain shift dress. The fusion of east and west means that Indians are starting to wear gowns, and the saris are becoming more western through their shape and blouse styles..” She excitedly added that her company is running

Gok Wan-type workshops that are aimed at people from all walks of life and different cultures, i.e. Nigerian, Russian, indian etc. It will endeavor to teach people how to put together outfits and dress different body shapes. “I absolutely adore working with different people.” As the conversation drew to an natural close, we returned to the allinclusive and ever mindful ethos of the firm. Style is about embracing and making the most of yourself by hiding the features you dislike and accenturing your best assets regardless of your budget. As we progress through life our style evolves and changes but the signature look will always be there.. For example, women turn to a stylist when they have a milestone in theirlife, they become a mother, a milestone birthday, a divorce or new job. . If you’re a businessman and have recently been promoted, you may change your wardrobe to reflect a tailored corporate smarter look." With its strong congenial moral fibre, Bal’s company has established a commendable creative label beside its corporate one, and is incontestably worth both the practical and emotional investment.

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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RAF_A4 Temp 31/01/2013 14:08 Page 1

My family have always encouraged me to put education first. I wanted to do interesting things.

By joining the RAF as a medical officer, I am able to do both.

My job means that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m responsible for everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health on the base.

I also have to do a lot of study and research which is very important for my career.

Outside of work, I have a few hobbies. Beating my little brother at cricket is one of them. My wife agrees with me on this, living on an RAF base is like staying with extended family.

Royal Air Force, Senior Medical Officer

People around us are warm, friendly and constantly looking after us.

I love what I do.

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17-Nosheen Chaudry_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 11:57 Page 17

Nosheen Chaudry: A High Flying Woman rom early childhood Nosheen Chaudry had a fascination with aircraft and the idea of flight. That interest stayed with her into her teens when she joined an Air Cadet Squadron. Participating in the usual Air Cadet activities of glider flying, sport, rifle shooting and flying lessons, Nosheen gradually realised that this was a career in the making. She must have made an impact by the enthusiastic way in which she embraced her subject as she was offered a RAF scholarship to be sponsored through Birmingham university to study engineering. After her successful graduation Nosheen reported to the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in August 2002 to begin training as an Officer Cadet. Following her 26 week Officer Training Course, Nosheen graduated as junior officer and began her trade training. This was an extended period during which she learned the broad range of subjects she would need to work around the cutting edge aircraft used by the RAF. “Now,” says Nosheen, “I am an Aero Systems Engineering Officer and fulfil a variety of roles with responsibility for the teams maintaining aircraft within our fleet. It’s challenging work but I like the fact I get posted from one station to another every two years to work on other related and sometimes different projects.” Indeed, Nosheen has spent the last year working on recruiting the potential engineering officers of the future as part of the RAF’s specialist recruitment teams – a job she has really enjoyed. But it’s not all hard work in the RAF, as Nosheen explained: “One of the big attractions for me about the Royal Air Force is the sports and adventurous training on offer. I am really keen on athletics and have competed for the RAF Athletics team for the last eight years.” The RAF requires its personnel to keep physically fit and actively encourages adventurous training. Many airmen and airwomen get involved in the service’s skiing, climbing or sailing expeditions and there are clubs and teams for most popular sports. Clearly Nosheen’s life is extremely

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busy, but joining the RAF to be an aero systems engineer may not be the first thought in the minds of most women. Nosheen said: “I knew from an early age that this is the kind of thing I wanted to do and my family were very supportive in my career choice. In fact, they encouraged me to apply for the University Bursary which certainly helps with the cost of getting a degree.”

Flt Lt Nosheen Chaudry

Nosheen also finds the military life style still gives her time to visit family and friends. “Sometimes it means a bit of long distance travel, but I’ve always found that I’ve been able to keep up with family life”. Flight Lieutenant Nosheen Chaudry saves her last piece of advice for young women currently considering their future careers: “I would encourage them to find out as much information as possible and include their family when making decisions. There are many opportunities to visit stations in the RAF and I would encourage this also. The RAF website is a good place to start!”

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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18-Onita_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 11:57 Page 18

Onita Prasada - an

embodiment of inspiration

or Onita Prasada, dreams and passions go hand in hand . From wanting to be India’s first woman pilot , Onita learnt how to fly, but little did she know that her dreams of becoming big were going to take her to other destinations. For a lady who started from wanting to become a pilot, then moving to architecture, how did fashion happen? That is a question that would come to everyone’s mind. Well, this is what Onita has to say about it. When asked she told us about a friend who had approached her to help her run a store in a quirky place in Delhi called Haus Khas village. That was her soiree into the world of fashion. Onita thought to herself 'fashion!' Because she knew so little about it then. Onita's creative and artistic eye is something that she imbibes from her mother. She never thought she would venture into this area, but she did and has established herself extremely successfully. After having worked across many global locations, she was headhunted to move to the UK to establish and launch an upmarket Canadian-American denim label Buffalo David Bitton. After 5 successful years with the brand, she decided she needed a change, but wasn’t sure what it would be. A call from one of the designer she now stocks, triggered Onita to start a store of her own. Albeit being concerned of her inadequate knowledge of the gaps in the Asian fashion market in the UK, a thorough research, clubbed with dedication, knowledge and determination led to the opening of her couture store O'nitaa Ltd, off Baker street. Having grown up in India, Onita is familiar with the 21st century South

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Onita Prasada

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

Asian norms and customs. Coupled with her exposure to the west gives her an edge with understanding, what fusion in fashion mean- impeccable finishes, appealing silhouettes, customer service and respect for the craftsmen, that create these works of art she sells at her store, and that she often refers to as labour of love. So how does Onita style her client? “There is no one format for dressing people up. I try not to engulf a client when they walk into my store. The attempt is to understand their personality and how they react to the garments they are viewing. This helps me understand their taste and requirements. Conversations with them as they meander through the aisles in the shop, give me an idea of what they are hoping to portray of themselves, at the event they are shopping for. I often rely on my gut instinct and I am very quick to dismiss a look, if in my opinion it doesn't do justice to a client's personality.” The store now is in its 4th successful year and growing from strength to strength. Onita must be doing something right to have weathered this recession, that the world is engulfed by. She would like to leave an indelible impression by the way Asian couture is perceived and accepted in the West. Besides the treasure trove that met my eye, as I walked in through the doors of the store, was the beautiful background music that seemed to change ever so often. I had to ask, as I realised that Onita loves her music too. She allowed me to peek into her compiled playlist of favourites, that spans across many genres and is reflective of her personality too. I was surprised to see Chopin to Tchaikovsky, from Pink Floyd to Fleetwood Mac, from Bhimsen Joshi to Hariprasad Chaurasia and many Bollywood favourites in abundance. Onita is an inspiration for all the young entrepreneurs trying to carve a niche for themselves. Like she says, nothing can stop us, when we aspire to achieve.


8-Advert_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 15:54 Page 19

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"&&"& ,*"& **.'% & "+, +!" ) $ * * & . * $ ! $( ''# '% &1* ," +' -"& + $$ '. +' $ ) + & ()'%'+ % $ %('. )% &+ '+ +! *+ &*(") +"'& $ ''# ' +! / ) / Book Description Having It All Now is the new inspirational self-help title by multi-award winning lawyer, entrepreneur and public speaker Ritu Sethi. Voted Asian Business Woman of the Year in 2000 and Businesswoman of the year 2008 at the Asian Woman of Excellence Awards, Ritu Sethi has established herself as an independent force within the business world. She is also a devoted wife and mother who was able to build her own business and become hugely successful. And now she shares her secret and reveals on how you can do the sameâ&#x20AC;Ś Ritu has had an exceptional career and is a proven innovator. She is a solicitor and senior partner at The Sethi Partnership and Solicitors and has served as an inspiration for women nationwide through her various public speaking engagements. Ritu has been nominated for and won many business awards. Drawing from her own experiences and detailing her easy-to-follow system of self-improvement, which she has practised, Having It All Now is an accessible and coherent formula that demonstrates how women of all ages and cultures can get the most out of life and better their situations. Having It All Now is the perfect present to promote a positive change, covering relationships, finances, health, spirituality, self-development, and creative expression, raising children and having a good time with friends all in one book. www.ritusethi.com 0 ... ! -"& "+ $$&'. ' ,#

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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20-Dr Sonal Minocha _A4 Temp 05/07/2013 11:59 Page 20

Dr Sonal Minocha's vision is to bring business education into the 21st Century r Sonal Minocha is Executive Dean of the University of Bedfordshire Business School (UBBS). She joined in January 2012, and leads a faculty worth £35m with around 140 staff and over 7000 students: 5,000 on campus and 2,000 with partner institutions around the world. As one of the only Indian Business School Deans in the UK, she was also the youngest when she took up her post at the age of 32. Dr Minocha was born and raised in New Delhi, studied her bachelor’s degree at Delhi University and came to the UK in 2001 to study, gaining her master’s and Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Newcastle Business School. She believes that education has the capacity to transform peoples’ lives. This drives her passion for developing global higher education practice that connects staff, students and employers to shape our communities and cities alike. Sonal’s career has covered private and public sectors and Higher Education in an international context . Before Bedfordshire, she was Associate Dean at the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Sunderland, UK. Sonal was responsible for both the international development and external engagement portfolios of the Faculty. In addition to shaping new thinking and practice at UK and overseas Universities, she has

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Dr Sonal Minocha Executive Dean of University of Bedfordshire

Dr Sonal Minocha accepting her award for Academic of the Year category from Chuka Umunna MP at the Asian Voice Political & Public Life Awards 2013 in House of Common

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

authored books and published refereed papers and articles internationally. Sonal's main academic interests are in strategic creativity and organisational learning. Alongside Higher Education she has a specialist interest in the film and creative industries and has published research into these industries. And of course, like every Indian girl, Sonal once aimed for Bollywood stardom, she remarks! As Executive Dean, Sonal says “I see myself as a champion of practice based education-i.e. education that transcends beyond the classroom to impact our communities. Shaping a skilled workforce that has the confidence to take our businesses, industry and economies into the future is the foundation for the Business School, my team and I want to build at the University of Bedfordshire”. To make this vision a reality she calls out to employers regionally, nationally and internationally to collaborate with the University of Bedfordshire Business School in shaping relevant business education and practice. In February this year, Dr Minocha was chosen Academic of the Year at the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards and was one of four women shortlisted in the Woman of the Year category of the 2012 Asian Achievers Awards. To add to her impressive achievements she was winner of the ‘contribution to education’ category at a ceremony at the India International Foundation’s 9th annual awards, for her outstanding contribution business leadership and education. We are particularly interested in hearing from businesses who would like to work with us to develop our practice based vision further. For further information contact: Tim Priestman on 01582 743972 Projects Executive, Executive Dean’s Office University of Bedfordshire University Square Luton Bedfordshire LU1 3JU


21-25-Advert_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 12:32 Page 21

Kuntal Indulkar Kuntal Indulkar, born and brought up in Mumbai, is an artistic director and choreographer. She was born and raised in Mumbai to a Hindu family. Born to Vishwas Indulkar and Kalpana Indulkar she is the oldest daughter. Kuntal was ofcourse born in the city of dreams MUMBAI, INDIA and since then grew up around the environs of the Bollywood film industry. Her hard work, determination and attitude have made her a role model for many aspiring people around her. She started off with a small dance academy in India whilst she continued dancing with Bollywood Stars like Shahrukh

Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee etc. Launched in December 2009 by kuntal, Kuntals Dance school boasts an exciting range of courses ranging from fashionable Bollywood to up beat Bhangra. It’s considered to be UK’s leading Bollywood Performing Arts Training Institution, set up to train, manage and promote the future stars of tomorrow and to anyone interested to learn or keep fit with Bollywood dance. Kuntals schools are running successfully in London, Leicester and in the Midlands.

Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Big Brother Celebrity Shilpa Shetty and many more.

Is considered a top Bollywood Dance Expert. She is a lethal combination of beauty and brains.

Has carried out workshops with Young offenders of the HM prison Rayleigh.

Started dancing at the age of four and has dedicated her to perfecting a plethora of dance styles including Bollywood, Bhangra, Indian Classical Dance, and Street Dance. Passed through Akhil Bhartiya Gandharva Mahavidhyalaya Mandal, Kathak Examination with distinction. (Indian Classical Dancing) Has been performing around the world and in the UK with Bollywood dignitaries such as

Has also performed with top Bollywood stars including Saif ali Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta ,Raveena Tondon, bollywood singer Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chouhan etc. Runs her own Dance Academy in India and London Is involved in the launch of the First ever Bollywood Dance Syllabus allowing students and professionals to take accredited Bollywood dance exams

Choreographed BBC PROMS 16th August 2009 at Royal Albert Hall whilst performing with Bollywood singer Shaan, Adnan Sami etc

choreographers from India such as Ganesh Hedge, Farah Khan, Ahmed Khan, Remo Fernandez, Bosco Ceaser and many more. Has worked in Bollywood Films such as Hera Pheri, Kaante, Sur and many music videos. Also performed at prestigious awards like Filmfare, Star Screen, IIFA Awards Zee Cine Awards, Zee Sangeet Awards. Kuntal offers the very best training for a variety of styles including, Bollywood, Kathak and Bhangra. She has already begun to establish a reputation for the quality of training offered. “Looking back I can always thank my Mother for making sure that I was trained in classical dance which was very essential”

Choreographed performances for Navin Kundra, Apache Indian and Stereo Nation (Taz)at the IPL Cricket Match which took place at LORDS CRICKET GROUND

She feels very proud to represent her country India and share all the knowledge and Indian culture to her students in the form of Dance. An Indian women to get to these heights in another country is very commendable.

Channel 4’s Bollywood Star worked for different projects with famous Bollywood

To reach Kuntal www.kuntals.co.uk info@kuntals.co.uk

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22-Anita Anand_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 12:04 Page 22

A Study in Anita Anand, Broadcast Journalist ■ Rupanjana Dutta & Sunetra Senior inner of the Nazia Hassan Award for upcoming Television Broadcasters in 2005, and The Guardian’s young journalist prize in formative years, British Asian Anita Anand has continued to deliver in her profession. Now juggling motherhood with weekly slots on BBC Radio 4 and 5 Live, covering feature stories for TV while also writing a biography in her spare time, this television and radio broadcaster is an insignia of steady and impressive progress. As we talked over the phone, it really seemed that her well-balanced character has been a huge part of Anand’s wholesome life success. That rare combination of drive and sincerity, passion and focus, adrenaline and reason, she is the ideal reporter-presenter. “Just getting to the truth. That’s what I love about radio and broadcasting. You catch people being honest and open. It can be moving and humbling. I interviewed Benazir Bhutto when she spent time in London and was shocked when she went back and was assassinated. She was a part of my history. It felt like I had a ring side seat and my son will read about it when he is older and can ask me about it.” An innate psychological proclivity for investigation and social enlightenment is apparent through Anand's avid pursuit of broadcast media since childhood “as a child my father included me in conversations about what was happening in the world. In secondary school and university, I edited the school magazine and London student newspaper, working for The Guardian and Gazette to get experience. I enjoyed formulating ideas and circulating them. When I finished studying, my winning feature for The Guardian Young Journalist of the Year Award landed me a ready-made job with TV Asia. It was incredible. In those days not many Asian girls did journalism in this country, especially news and current affairs, so I wanted to see more and understand the world better.” The prolific journalist has also worked for Zee TV, India Today and Asia Asia. Now, not only does Anand know her stories through research, but habitually breathes them on location; at the devastated

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Anita Anand

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Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

sites of Hurricane Katrina or Gujarat after the earthquake and groundbreaking political events like Obama’s inauguration. Where trustworthy news can only come of authentic human intention, active involvement is the most patent proof. This also applies to Anand’s stance as a feminist and citizen of the world; she deals constructively with the issues at hand “The Delhi rape case: it broke my heart, but I am pleased I got a chance to cover it. At least now people are talking, politicians are taking notice, and police have to change the way they investigate and that is important. India is it at an interesting crossroads where it can take the right route: we need to stop thinking about women just as mothers and daughters. Either you are a mother, Goddess to be worshipped or a child to be coddled and wrapped in cotton wool. There isn’t much room in the middle. Women must be allowed to ask ‘what is important to me?’ and to do what is fulfilling to them. To be treated as a proper adults if you like.” Anand's book too is a gendered bridge between the imagined East and West, about the last Maharaja of Punjab Duleep Singh’s daughter. Unable to shine a direct live-feed light on the Princess' under reported contribution to the British Suffragist movement, Anand has taken the next best logical step to write a poignant historic narrative “the Maharaja's daughter defended women that were suffering in this country, despite the fact that she was an Indian Princess, and privileged as Queen Victoria’s Goddaughter.” Quite naturally, the broadcaster’s rational tenacity encompasses her personal life. Anand interjected her need to re-structure the week as a full-time working mother ‘I did the Daily Politics Show in the morning, rushing across to Five Live in the evenings, but you can’t live like that with a child. Days are still eventful, but I try to plan. I have my writing days, BBC days and playing football and feeding the ducks with Hari days.” In that maternal vein, Anand left us with a final sincere sentiment for all aspiring youth “Instead of Studying journalism, do it. Participate in your school and university publications from the start; otherwise you will not stand out against others who simply want fame.”


23-Kinnari Patel_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 12:07 Page 23

The beautician & hair designer with a difference who is making a difference ■ Rani Singh innari Patel, the maestro beautician has come a very long way from her initial decade-long beauty training in that centre of good grooming, Ahmedabad, and deserves her place in a magazine dedicated to the British Asian Woman. But unlike many others achievers, before talking about herself, the first people that Kinnari wants to thank are her father, her husband Subir Patel, a reputed civil contractor, her elder sister, and the rest of her family. She says that she has always had their support and acknowledges what many successful people know but do not often say; that they depend on the strong help of a select few around them to help them rise to the top. The other thing about Kinnari is that she doesn’t stop learning. After her extended hair and beauty course in Gujarat, which would have been enough for most people, she took more training in hair colouring, cutting and went to bridal care courses in the UK. An L’Oreal professional gave her one on one tuition, a most valuable and secret teaching. In addition, Kinnari took the trouble to study technique with Tony and Guy and has a diploma in advanced hair styling. So it’s no surprise that her staff can use henna, slice, dice, perform razor sharp cuts, perms and texture. At the American Dream School Kinnari trained to blend and style synthetic hair with a client’s existing tresses, a fashion which will probably never date. Kinnari told BAW 2013; “I love changing women, transforming them, making them feel better. I love making them change for the good.” Kinnari offers services not provided by conventional salons and caters to all ladies. She has special new treatments for certain characteristics that are particularly common among Asian women. For limp or dry hair, or hair that is falling, she provides a high protein hair treatment and a soothing Indian head massage. Now many beauticians offer full head massages since the speciality requires specific training and knowledge of this delicate part of the body. Kinnari also makes sure that a deep hair

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dye is used that has no ammonia in it. The salon offers an invigorating oxygen treatment that helps rebuild skin, reduces wrinkles and increases skin firmness. Colour collections include Ombre Nature Collection and Balayge, L’Oreal’s spring and Summer French hair colouring technique. It's a freehand system where the hair colour is applied by hand sweeping for a more natural effect. There are too natural eyebrow tints. She also offers herbal facials, and bridal and party hair up dos. There are face polishing treatments that deal with sun patches and special sessions to treat what probably afflicts most people in their time pimples! Also new is hair styling from Vidal Sassoon. Kinnari is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sundays 10am to 4pm. Some owners turn up at their salons late and leave early once they become successful, but over the weeks of preparatory research for this article I noticed that Kinnari was religious about getting to her salon at opening time and just like any good MD, stayed long after it closed to attend to clients and to attend to the business. Kinnaris’ salon is in Norbury, South London. Do visit- I certainly wish that time had permitted me to try out a few treatments, starting with a relaxing therapeutic head massage! I guess I can dream about going to Kinnari’s one day....and having a top to toe treatment at the hands of one of the best beauty therapists around. Not many on the Asian are really interested in legacy but Kinnari is busy setting hers while she is still busy and active. Alongside her business, she has set up a training academy and conducts training courses every working day Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm. She also shared with us her ambition to help women and to see them independent and proud; she would like to help those who need counselling provide refuges for them, and teach them to become self- sufficient.

Kinnari's Hair & Beauty 1361 London Road Norbury, London SW16 4BE Tel: 020 8679 0196 kinnari69@googlemail.com OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK

Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2013

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24-Anjali Pathak_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 15:28 Page 24

The Asian Spice Girl ■ Rupanjana Dutta Chef, notable food critic and writer, cookery teacher and consultant, Anjali Pathak, the bubbly 'spice girl' from Bolton is a true wonder girl. Torch bearer of the Patak's legend, at the young age of 31 and part of an unforgettable creative history, Anjali confides in us how as a little girl she never realised that her family was different. As an inquisitive and passionate learner, she started showing enthusiasm in cooking right from her childhood, picking up the little nuances from her mother and grand mother, that she treasures today. “When I was a little girl my grandmother bought me a little rolling pin and board so I could spend time with her in the kitchen rolling the chapattis for dinner. “I grew up learning as much as I could about spices and family recipes by floating around the kitchen, school books in one hand and wooden spoon in the other. I didn't realise I was a dab hand in the kitchen, until I left for university and I had to cook for myself in my student accommodation. “A shopping basket brimming with fresh fish, herbs and vegetables, I would always whip up something tasty that would be much more adventurous than what my friends were eating. “I suppose this is when I discovered I was a good cook.” Anjali, whose grandfather Laxmishanker (popularly known as Lakhubhai), foundeds the Patak’s brand of cooking sauces and pickles with his wife Shanta when they moved to London in the 1950s. Anjali studied a business based degree in the esteemed Salford University, that integrated business, mathematics and computer science. While her mother and grandmother taught her the nitty gritty of how to cook a simple yet exquisite dish, her father Kirit, shared tales of the exotic business trips and his vision, ennobling Anjali with the best of both worlds- just around the family dinner table. But cooking is not the only passion Anjali holds dear to her heart. Trained at the top chef school Leiths, Anjali also took took wine courses to widen her horizon of expertise.

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“I enrolled in the world recognised Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course for Intermediate study which then led me to study the Advanced qualification which I completed last year. It was much more difficult than I had prepared myself for and much to my delight I received a distinction. The blind tastings were the most interesting, as I felt it made me realise just how broad the subject of wine was. “My next step is to do the diploma which is a 2 year commitment and will only leave me with the prestigious Master of Wine to complete. It is the pinnacle of professional achievement in the world of wine and there are only a few hundred in the world.” Anjali wrote recipes for Patak's for a lot longer than her age suggests and has contributed to their family recipes ever since she was young. After joining the board as a director in Culinary Development, she was asked if she wanted to write a book to celebrate 50 years of their business and she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. “I worked tirelessly writing content and recipes, testing, and borrowing a few classics from my mum, Meena, who is my role model. Shortly after we launched it, we won an award from the Gourmand Cookbook Awards. I have never felt so proud of my achievement,” she added. Anjali having changed the perception of Indian food to a healthy available option, she acknowledges that there are not many women working as a professional chef in the industry. But how easy has the journey been for Anjali? She concluded with a smile- “I was brought up to believe that if you want to believe what everyone says about you, then you might as well live within the stereotypes that are set out for you. There are few things in life that come for free and success is certainly not one of them. “Choosing to enter the same industry as my family was not a difficult choice. But with all choices come challenges and I knew to overcome these challenges I need to use all my resources around me. Learning from your peers is the only way to succeed in the future. And when faced with new problems, I know that I am well equipped to solve them!”


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Announcing the launch of Small, Sleek & Smart YuppTV Dongle YuppTV, one of the world’s largest Internet TV providers recently announced the launch of its first “YuppTV Dongle” in USA for South Asians away from home and will soon be launching it in Europe. The YuppTV dongle is a revolutionary device especially for the expatriate Indians who want access to home grown content. It is a small, 1080p, Wi-Fi streaming player which enables Indian expats to watch their favorite Indian TV Channels live, video on demand, TV shows with back to back episodes, Bollywood movies and a wide range of regional movies YuppTV Dongle provides you with the pleasure of – Accessing a variety of Indian TV content via YuppTV in 11 languages – Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Oriya, Gujarati and Bhojpuri Watching your favorite serials as LIVE / VOD, movies, LIVE events, etc. Streaming videos, listening music, getting latest news. Facebooking or twittering at

home on their big screen TV. Sharing videos, photos or music files on the TV screen through its memory card slot. Checking emails or surfing the internet on your TV itself. Experience of a portable Smart TV. In keeping with its commitment to innovation and accessible content, YuppTV is coming up with 2nd screen experience for its users. Customers would be able to browse the content on their phone/tablets and play them over Wi-Fi onto their TV screen. Upcoming updates would also enable the consumer to convert old audio systems to smart audio systems by connecting this dongle to it. The customer can play music, photos and videos on legacy audio / video receiver using android phone / tablets or iphone / ipad. Your support has always motivated us to provide you with nothing less than best. Hope to get the same support in future. Find us more on www.yupptv.com or call us 0116 228 2985.

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26-Baroness Sandip Verma_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 12:08 Page 26

Baroness Sandip Verma, setting an example ■ Rani Singh aroness Sandip Verma remains the only minister in government of Indian origin. This, in her eyes, is indicative of the fact that British politics still has a long way to go before it truly represents all communities. “But I don’t think it’s just for political parties to reach out,” she says, welcoming British Asian Woman magazine into her office in the House of Lords. “We’ve got a lot to say so we need to come forward and be part of the political system.” Baroness Verma is a parliamentary under-secretary or minister in the department for Energy and Climate Change. In September she will be conducting a ministerial visit to India. A focus of the tour will be engaging with women politicians and women- led businesses, predominantly at a grass roots level, in the green sector. She feels very much part of her departmental team. She says that her secretary of state and the two supporting ministers of state have recognised the value that she brings “with different perspectives, reaching out to a wider consumer base, and making sure that those communities that have not engaged with politics are not missed out when we’re deciding on policies and framework for our forthcoming plans.” While diversity brings new challenges, Baroness Verma feels that the work starts at home. “Are we breaking down the barriers within our own communities or are we still of a mindset that creates those barriers?” she asks. “If we don’t look at the potential of our young people, and all our people as being equal contributors, then how are we going to go out to the wider community and expect those barriers to be broken down? It starts from home. I still see too much discrimination; particularly if you’re a girl.” Baroness Verma feels that the media, too, has a role to play in giving direction to people that politicians don’t always reach. She feels that the Asian community should not impose “barriers that have been broken in other parts of the world.” She also says that Asians needs to believe that they are “part and parcel” of the UK, where

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equality is high on the agenda. She comments that Asians cannot battle with discrimination if they themselves discriminate. “The worst people for pulling others down often come from our own communities. Our strength is in pushing people up the ladder rather than waiting for them either to fall or dragging them down.” In an intimate reveal, Baroness Verma shares with us that in her own community she faced challenges when she entered politics. “They felt I wasn’t going to make it and asked why I was doing this. As well as this I was going into a political party that faced its own challenges. It was difficult in the beginning because the Conservative party was still fairly reluctant to have female representation, let alone BME representation. Having said that, they have been at the forefront of trying to break down those barriers.” She feels that all political parties have a long way to go and are nowhere near proper representation. “I think it’s still quite difficult for people to get near front line politics today so we, as communities, have got to reach out ourselves, to get into and persist in those networks.” She says that in her case, she has great mentors who come mainly from the wider community. Though, she says this of course starts with her family and the support she has received from her husband Ashok and their two children. Dr David Bethel, former Vice Chancellor of Leicester Polytechnic took her under his wing as one of her main Conservative Party mentors. He told her, “For every one person that pulls you down, look for the nine people that will support you.” Focussing too much on the negative, says the Baroness, means that the positive bypasses us. Coming to the House of Lords, Baroness Verma has discovered a great deal of goodwill, even though it might need seeking out. In the House, she says that she often learns from people with a lot more experience, who make sure that she doesn’t fail. It’s a trait she now uses to help others, and hopes to pass on. This she feels is perhaps her most important ambition, which is to pass the lessons she has learnt onto the wider community.


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The changes WE can bring about ■ Reena Ranger, Founder & Chairwoman - Women Empowered his May marked the first birthday of Women Empowered or “WE”, as it is more popularly called. WE is a social initiative open to all. There is no membership or criteria to attend our events and we always include men in our discussion to get a well rounded and balanced perspective. Our aim is to encourage women to be the best at whatever we choose to do, by providing role models to engage them with journeys and inspirational stories. WE in turn hope that it will encourage people to take that leap of faith, empowered with the advice and experiences of the speakers and make the best of their individual skills and talents and achieve whatever personal and professional goals they may have. Women of the same age can be at very different junctures of their lives. So we aim to be broad and provide an array of speakers on the same topic at each event, so that women can find applicability and an affinity with one or more of them, to make the difference to their lives. That difference is not about achieving fame or fortune. It can be overcoming an illness, finding the right way to empower our children or starting our own businesses - whatever that special thing is. It is that special thing which makes difference to our lives. WE aims to provide women with a forum, a platform and a network where they can find support, mentoring and inspiration. As an organisation we try to support women through the journey by putting them in touch with organisations that can nurture their ideas and mentors who can assist in achieving those goals. WE aims to create a place to meet like minded people and create alliances for the future. We approximately hold three events a year on a variety of topics. So how did WE start? After having my children, I was surrounded by women who once considered themselves strong and articulate. They had contributed positively to society and the economy and were now finding it hard to get back on the train which they had left to fulfil their maternal desires. For many the cost of childcare, which in some cases exceeded their income or

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was higher than their mortgages combined with what seems to be never ending school holidays, made returning to conventional work almost impossible. It was not flexible enough or it just wasn’t what they wanted anymore- as they wanted more of a balance with their family life and careers. With the power of the internet allowing anyone who wishes to be an entrepreneur and be their own boss, this was a logical option for many women. But many felt they needed the support of a mentor who had made it through to the other side. Some women wanted to get involved in issues they felt were not being addressed or even discussed in areas such as healthcare and education. But they were unsure how to do that, though some women were passionate about getting involved in public and community services to help shape the world around them. Repeatedly, there were discussions about how women can juggle all of these things in life- family, career, community and whether it is in fact possible to have it all. I discussed this subject with my friend Mona Remtulla who felt strongly on the subject too and WE was born through our combined efforts. The above mentioned issues became the inspiration for the WE events. So far we have held events on entrepreneurship, women in male dominated environments, “having it all” and how to create a lasting impression. In our next year we want to revisit some of these topics from a different perspective and look at new topics like “tomorrow's role models”. So come and join us, and take part in our initiatives. We at WE are sure that you and us together can bring about the changes, that we need.

Reena Ranger & Mona Remtulla

For more information see www.womenempowered.co.uk or “like”us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/WEWomen Empowered. You can also follows us or tweet at us on Twitter at @WE_Empowered.

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28-Rekha Mehr_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 15:59 Page 28

Desi sweets – the English way ■ Rupanjana Dutta & Spriha Srivastava hen it comes to the Indian cuisine in the UK, it is the street food that has carved a big niche for itself. Apart from the street food, the spicy curries like tikka masala, jalfarezi and vidaloo are quite popular too. But one area that is a bit neglected is the sweets and desserts section. Indian sweets are known to be heavy and sugary but the flavours and varieties cannot be ignored. Rekha Mehr, wants to change the perception of Indian sweets in the UK. She started her buying career with an 18-month position at Waitrose, followed by four and a half years at Amazon before deciding to take some time off to travel and be with family and friends. She spent six-months in India where she travelled around and attended family weddings. She realised how important sweets are in Indian tradition and came back with inspiration, determination and a business model. “I spent about a month in Gujarat, travelled up to Punjab, crossed UP, spent quite a lot of time in Mumbai and Goa and then down to Karnataka and Kerala as well. I tasted a lot of street food and loved the contrast of the mild coconut-based food in Kerala,” Rekha says.The biggest thing, however she realised was the huge gap between the Indian and UK markets in terms of sweets and desserts and decided it was time to bridge the gap. “I came back from India and realised there was a huge gap in the market for Indian sweets that were relevant to the climate and British palate - when it comes to Indian food, sweets and desserts for most part get neglected,” says Rekha. Rekha wanted to improve the offering for the Indian and other Asian communities in the UK and also wanted to introduce a new range of products to people who have never tasted this before, and so Pistachio Rose was born. Pistachio Rose is a boutique bakery that specialises in the fusion of quintessential Indian flavours with elegant cakes, delicate biscuits and crumbling pastries. Perfect for a British-Raj style afternoon tea banquet. Mehr is also one of the two "entrepreneurs in residence" appointed in March 2013 to advise the Government on policies, that affect small and medium-sized companies in Britain.

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Last year Rekha introduced a range of recipes and sent it to family and friends for feedback and was extremely happy with the responses she received. She realised there was definitely a palette for her range of recipes and wanted to establish Pistachio Rose as a luxury brand, which top-end restaurants could serve to their customers. She started exhibiting her recipes and received immense appreciation which has kept her going. Since last August, Pistachio Rose has been supplying luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason with aromatic shortbread, mini chai madeleines, sweet naans and dark and white chocolate tarts. However, Mehr says she has had to turn away orders from elsewhere because one pair of hands just isn't enough to fulfil them. The 31-year-old is now in talks with a production facility to transform her venture from cottage industry into growing business. What makes Pistachio Rose unique? Rekha says it’s the recipes. Every single product contains heritage flavours or format and has been made after taking inspiration from traditional sweets and desserts, for instance, a gulab jamun i nspired cake. Interestingly the name of the bakery came from Gulab Jamun, which is Rekha’s favourite Indian dessert. But how did Gulab Jamun become Pistachio Rose? “If you look back at the traditional recipe for Gulab Jamun, it’s a cardamom studded sponge, soaked in rose syrup & glistened with chopped pistachios. I also felt that pistachio and rose were present in both English and Indian desserts.” “Like last autumn I made chocolate naan that was a huge hit in the market. Customers were surprised of course, but once I explained it was simply a chocolate brioche from a different continent, they couldn’t wait to eat the warm soft bread!” “I want to ensure everything has a little bit of heritage but is just presented a bit more elegantly and is more enjoyable to eat. I don’t feel that anybody is doing that in bakery at the moment,” says Rekha. Indian sweets is definitely an area that needs more focus and with Rekha’s recipes that have a blend of both heritage and creativity, those in UK have a lot to taste and enjoy. If you haven’t tasted yet, do visit Rekha’s products in Fortnum and Mason and drown yourself in some new-age Indian sweets.


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30-Shashi Gossain_A4 Temp 05/07/2013 12:16 Page 30

Talking shop with skin-care mogul Shashi Gossain ■ Dr. Reenu Punnoose he story of every successful entrepreneur is built on perseverance, passion and innovative thinking. Shashi Gossain, Founder of PharmaClinix is a good case in point. Nearly seven years ago, Gossain, a pharmacist by profession, decided to use her three decades of experience in the health and beauty sector to set up a ‘One Stop Health and Beauty Clinic’-PharmaClinix. “I decided to produce our own range of products which were more suitable to Asian skin because till date there was nothing there that we could find was specifically designed to people who wanted things for either pigmentation or scarring which is a lot worse in Asians than it is in their white counterparts, “ says Gossain. In seven years, PharmaClinix has had a meteoric rise. “When we started selling in the UK, within 6 months, we were in 500 outlets and now 6/7 years later, we are in 27 countries in over 10 000 outlets,” reveals Gossain. However, she has weathered her fair share of storms too and continues to overcome barriers, whether it is meeting the expenses of setting up and running a profitable business, sourcing the right ingredients, or getting all the documentation in order because each country is different. She admits that a lot goes into running the business, particularly when it is an international business . For instance, how things are stored differ in each country. Certain products are heat and light sensitive thereby making storage and transport especially important in this case. Also, certain international standards have to be complied with when it comes to preparing brochures, etc. PharmaClinix is an established skincare brand in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, though, was the hardest market to crack amongst all the company's international branches, due to their stringent laws and regulations, the relatively conservative status of women in the country and due to the requirement for all the

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documentation to be in Arabic for which the company eventually got international translators. In times when visibility and celebrity endo rsements decide the fate of corporate brands in almost every sector, PharmaClinix's success is enviable. So what did Gossain do right? “I got the right product. I addressed the problem which most Asians have. And I addressed it to the best of my ability... there was a gap in the market for world class products that cater for Asians,” she quips. She further adds, “in the end it's not a face that is selling the product. Your products have to be good because you have to sell it to pharmacies and skin clinics and aesthetic dermatologists who actually understand what the products are about, what the ingredients are about, what actions they have.” The diversity in the product range offered by PharmaClinix and their affordability are also key reasons for its success: the brand is equally popular among both high and low-income individuals and are designed for people of different age groups (she reveals her oldest client is nearly a 100-years old!). Gossain's vision for the future is to replicate her Middle East success in other countries across the world as she and her team now look to expand her cosmeceutical venture in Africa as well as the Far East. Contrary to what one might expect in a gender-biased world, sh e believes being a woman has also aided her success, “...because they [women in business] are so few and far between, I have had a lot of recognition in lot of fields, not only here, even when I go abroad. So contrary to having gender based against me, I have sometimes felt that I have been favoured.” For all the women inspired by her story, she reiterates, “If you do put yourself forward in whatever profession you maybe in and make a mark for yourself, you do get recognised, purely because women are so few and far between in such positions.”


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ϬϮϬϯϭϯϭϱϳϰϭŚƐĨĐ͘ŽƌŐ͘ƵŬŝŶĨŽΛŚƐĨĐ͘ŽƌŐ͘ƵŬ Why not stop by for a friendly cup of tea and a ĨĞƌƟůŝƚLJĐŚĞĐŬͲƵƉ? &ĞƌƟůŝƚLJ ĐŚĞĐŬͲƵƉƐ ƐŚŽƵůĚ ďĞ Ă ƌĞŐƵůĂƌ ƉĂƌƚ ŽĨ LJŽƵƌ ǁĞůůŶĞƐƐ ƌŽƵƟŶĞ ƚŽ ĞŶƐƵƌĞ LJŽƵ ĂƌĞ ŝŶ ƚŚĞ ďĞƐƚ ŚĞĂůƚŚ ĨŽƌ ĐƌĞĂƟŶŐ Ă ďĞĂƵƟĨƵůďĂďLJ͘tĞŽīĞƌĞdžƉĞƌƚĂĚǀŝĐĞĂŶĚƐĞƌǀŝĐĞƐŝŶƚŚĞĂƌĞĂƐ ŽĨ ĂƐƐŝƐƚĞĚ ƌĞƉƌŽĚƵĐƟŽŶ ;ŝŶĐůƵĚŝŶŐ /s&͕ /^/͕ ĞŐŐ ĚŽŶĂƟŽŶ ĂŶĚ ĞŐŐ ƐŚĂƌŝŶŐͿ͕ ŐLJŶĂĞĐŽůŽŐLJ͕ ĂŶĚ ŵĂůĞ ŝŶĨĞƌƟůŝƚLJ͘ tĞ ĐĂŶ ĞĂƐŝůLJ ĂĐĐŽŵŽĚĂƚĞLJŽƵƌďƵƐLJƐĐŚĞĚƵůĞ͕ǁŝƚŚĂƉƉŽŝŶƚŵĞŶƚƐĂǀĂŝůĂďůĞŝŶ ƚŚĞĞǀĞŶŝŶŐƐĂŶĚŽŶǁĞĞŬĞŶĚƐ͘

ϰϯĞǀŽŶƐŚŝƌĞ^ƚ͕>ŽŶĚŽŶ͕tϭ'ϳ> ůůƉƌŽĐĞĚƵƌĞƐƚŚĂƚƌĞƋƵŝƌĞĂŶ,&ůŝĐĞŶƐĞĂƌĞƉĞƌĨŽƌŵĞĚĂƚŝƚLJ&ĞƌƟůŝƚLJ ;ϭϲ^ƚ:ŽŚŶ^ƚƌĞĞƚ͕>ŽŶĚŽŶϭDϰEdͿƵŶĚĞƌĂŶ,&ƌĞĐŽŐŶŝnjĂďůĞƚŚŝƌĚƉĂƌƚLJĂŐƌĞĞŵĞŶƚ͘


Onitaa_A4 Temp 07/03/2013 15:06 Page 1

The essence of AsiAn couTure

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BAW 15th July 2013