Archive | November, 2009

Payal Gidwani Tiwari

16 Nov

“There is no such thing as size zero!” ~ Payal Gidwani Tiwari

She is responsible for the ultra fit Kareena Kapoor and more recently, Rani Mukherjee’s toned body. But ask Payal Gidwani Tiwari how she deals with the accolades that she receives for her work, and she modestly will reply, “I know I just need to work harder.” However, the Yoga Master has very quickly developed a Bollywood-filled clientele all of whom swear by her. Formally trained in Yoga, the trainer knew that this was meant to be her dream job over six years ago when she received a calling after being extremely athletic in her school days. The Yoga Master became extremely popular amidst the Page 3 socialites when along with the world, they too awoke to a fitter and trimmer Kareena Kapoor who accredited her new sexy avatar to none other than Payal. She speaks to Roshni Magazine to talk about working with celebs, fitness and her Yoga calling.

How did you get into Yoga training and manage to attain such a high-profile clientele?
I have been doing yoga since my childhood along with my formal education I have been qualified as an ACSM [American College of Sports Medicine] fitness trainer so I combined both the concepts for training which is appreciated by my clientele.

Were you always interested in fitness and Yoga? How did you develop the interest and what courses have you taken in order to become a certified Yoga trainer?
Yes I have always been inclined to fitness, was a marathon runner in school. I had a Yoga calling in 2003 and I knew that was my path.

What is one of the few complaints most of your clients have when they first come to you?
Obesity, stress, the need to be healthy and even insomnia!

How long does a single Yoga session last and what does it entail?
Each yoga session last for an hour which includes body stretching, cleansing, postures, breathing techniques and relaxation.

How does Yoga help maintain not only a healthy lifestyle, but a peace of mind too? Consideration of health in yoga is a balance of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being that brings a discipline and harmony on all the levels.

What does it take to attain a body like Kareena Kapoor or more recently Rani Mukherjee?
Conscious discipline in your complete lifestyle.

What kind of exercises did they have to do in order to achieve their slimmer looks?
All kinds of postures, nutritious and a healthy combination of food.

What is the difference in going to the gym versus yoga? Is the outcome the same? What are the downfalls of each?
Gym is basically muscular training and yoga is the awareness of body and mind.

In between, we saw Kareena in a slimmer size-zero avatars. What is your take on this fad and the health issues that come with it?
There is no such thing as size zero! We only try and maintain a proportionately fit and healthy body.

Who are some of the more fit celebrities in Bollywood? Hollywood?
John Abraham and Akshay Kumar in Bollywood. Sorry quite nil with Hollywood stars!

How does it feel when you are accredited with the accolades and glory of a client’s great body?
When this happens it does not take me on a high pedestrian but just makes me realize that I have to work harder. I need to make sure my students get the right knowledge and benefits what they are looking for.

Along with regular Yoga, what else must a person do to stay fit and fine—in terms of food and drink?
It is very important to have a well balanced diet.

And lastly, what are three pieces of advice for healthy living?
Regular practice of yoga or exercise; Eat a well balanced diet; Positive way of thinking; Honesty and commitment towards your work.

~ Roshni M.
(November 2009)

Celina Jaitly

16 Nov

“I am still a soldier at heart” ~ Celina Jaitly

Never one to conform, Celina Jaitly is a model-actress who has come a long way. Born into a family of soldiers, this “army brat” decided to take the high road only to become a Miss India and eventually an actress. Confident and courageous, she openly accepted her sex-symbol title and played it up with great oomph. She debuted in as a glamorous model in Feroz Khan’s Janasheen opposite Fardeen Khan creating waves. And just when you think she couldn’t amaze you more, she single-handedly advocated for the Gays and Lesbians in India. Immediately she was hit with criticism in the form of hate mail which she quickly dismissed and continued with her mission. She too joined the world of Twitter becoming an avid Tweeter and one who is immensely popular in Twitterverse. Celina speaks to Roshni Magazine about her being a Beauty Queen, an activist, an actress and a sex-symbol.


You have quite an interesting background: Half Hindu-Half Afghan beauty queen who has been quite the globe-trotter. How did you go from Army Brat to Beauty Queen?
Honestly I don’t know myself. I knew I would become something big in life. I didn’t know how or who, but I knew. One thing led to another and thanks to my guardian who sent my entry for Ms. India I got selected and never looked back.

Celina Jaitly was regarded as one of the most sought after models in India at one point. What was that feeling like?
During my modeling days, people use to compare me as a model to Kate Moss and I used to look in the mirror and cry at my teenage pimples (laughs). I never looked at myself as a professional model; it was just a way of earning extra pocket money to add to my educational courses.

And then of course, films came along. Did you always want to be an actress? And if you weren’t an actress what would you have been doing?
If I wasn’t an actor, I would have been in the Army am a 4th generation Army brat. I am still a soldier at heart.

You’ve always been a part of both Hindi cinema and International cinema. What are the main differences between both industries?
The process of acting is same Language doesn’t matter. The style of working varies definitely and I feel international cinema is slightly better planned and pre-production is very good.

Now you’re taking the plunge into Hollywood. What do you think you will find there that you haven’t found in the Hindi film industry?
I am doing international cinema only for one reason: I feel we actors are citizens of the world. Art, music sees no boundaries or borders it is understood in any language because cinema speaks only one language: the language of human emotions. I want to explore and reach all cultures, races and religions. What better way to do it the act in international cinema.

Do you feel you have been planted with the “sex-symbol” tag simply because you haven’t been given too many chances?
I feel the only reason behind it is being a Feroz Khan girl. I was introduced in a very glamorous sexy avatar in my first film and an image which captures a million hearts is difficult to shed. It’s a different thing that I have no problems in being a “sex symbol”; it’s just a symbol. It’s a sign of youth, sensuousness and blooming womanhood. What’s to complain?

Your audiences love you in all your avatars but comedy seems to be your strength. What genre do you love most and which would you like to try your hand at?
My personal favorite is comedy. There are too many problems in people’s lives and if they pay their hard earned money, they better go out laughing and fully entertained!

Open and honest about your relationships, do you feel the Indian media has been overly interested in your life?
Yes! They have. It’s a good sign. I feel being a public figure its part and parcel of being who you are.

How do you deal with criticism and scrutiny in your personal life?
Certain criticisms are constructive and I take them as good advice. The rest is just a stupid person’s idea of a clever person. I ignore it.

I love how you are not afraid to bare your heart and speak your mind irrespective of the issue. Is this a part of your personality or did you have to develop such thick skin?
I was born straightforward; what you see is what you get! I am different and I get into trouble for it but at least I go to sleep with a clear conscience and good karma.

Now besides being an avid Tweeter, you are also a supporter of the Gay Rights Movement in India. Why did you choose to support a group of people that are unfortunately looked down upon in India?
Because I care, it’s as simple as that. I don’t need to explain why my support stands. I saw atrocity and I stood up against it.

What would you like to change about the Indian perception and attitude towards homosexuals in India?
Stop treating them differently! God made us all the same. Sexuality does not affect how good and capable a human being one is. So get over your qualms; live and let live.

What advice would you give to aspiring models and actresses in India?
Get an education. Look in the mirror carefully and only then if you are 500% sure, take the step and give it your all.

And lastly, here’s some trivia: If you Google Celina Jaitly, there are over 750,000 hits! How does that stardom feel?
STARDOM! I’ve worked very hard for it, harder to maintain but the best goddamned thing that happened to me. Insha’Allah I wish the same to everyone in their respective fields. I am most thankful to god for it.

Okay now seriously last question, words of wisdom for the world.
Follow your dreams for you neverknow where they might take you.

~Roshni M.
(November 2009)

Srushti Rao

16 Nov

“An artist craves appreciation” ~ Srushti Rao

Indian Art correlates directly with its long and deep history, religion, culture and Hindu philosophy. And while antique art is always appreciated, young contemporary artists are constantly compared to these veterans. Modern Indian art gained popularity in the 1990’s where artists of all calibers used different forms of art to express a new prevailing India. Srushti Rao is one such young Desi artist. Immediately you are drawn to the vivid colors that are evident in all her artwork, lines and shapes that make up a single piece of artwork. Realizing that contemporary Indian art still needs much more time before it gains superior international recognition, Rao is determined to make sure she is a part of the phenomena that will occur. Her inspirations lie in daily life and mundane allures that make up today’s India. The incredibly passionate artist chats with Roshni Magazine about all things colorful and art.

I think your paintings are absolutely fascinating! When did you realize you were indeed an artist?
More than me I think my parents realized very early on that I am an artist. As a kid I used to be fascinated with colors, designs and patterns. I started coloring and painting very early in life. I have these huge coloring books that my parents would get for me. Although my parents thought I would either be an Architect or a Fashion Designer.

What did you do to pursue your talent and passion? Did you really leave your corporate job to pursue a career in art?
All through school I would excel in drawing. I used to also complete the biology diagrams in my classmates journals. Although I studied Science and Math till my 12th grade, I took up Fine Arts in college. I knew where my heart was and all I wanted to do is follow that and add a professional degree to my passion. Surviving as an artist is difficult and to survive I did take up a corporate job to survive and pay for my supplies. Since I have now taken a deliberate shift in my corporate role, I can dedicate more time to painting. I did a solo exhibition last year and I am participating in a lot of group exhibitions this year. I am also preparing for a new series that should be done in a couple of months.

How would you define your artwork? What is Art to you?
I paint in oil and acrylic on canvas. I am also experimenting with other mediums currently. Essentially my paintings are figurative though not realistic. I paint thoughts and dreams. My art has a definitive form and then that is encompassed with colors. Art is very individualistic. For me a piece of art will be something that I can stare at for hours and still not get enough from it. I can look at my paintings for hours and still find new interpretations to it, some far different from what I intended when I made the painting. A piece of art can be something that makes you think or wonder. Makes you happy or gives you pleasure; whether it is created by you or by someone else – be it a painting, a sculpture, music or dance. Art is something that gives that extra dimension to you in your regular life.

What would you say inspires you when you are painting?
Life in general inspires me. Breathing inspires me; simple thoughts regular conversation, travel food – everything around inspires me. I am in love with life in general and that is my driving force.

Most of your paintings uses bright colors and symmetrical shapes. Is this intentional and if so, why the use of shapes? What is this type of art called?
I like bright colors and hence I use them in paintings. Each of my painting has something to say and each of those thoughts correspond to the shapes that I use in my paintings. Symmetry again depends on what I am painting or what is it that I have to say. For example, ‘Introspection’ is a symmetrical painting. Here I am talking of taking a peek into oneself, within oneself and having a third person perspective of oneself hence the symmetry where the person is not only looking ‘into’ herself but also looking ‘at’ herself. In the Series ‘Mind and Body’ the Square shapes represent the material world and the black grey lines space, so on and so forth. On a broader scale my art come under the contemporary art. However, my art is very different from what anyone is doing right now. I like to call is Line-ism on the lines of the other ‘isms’ of art.

How hard or easy is it to break into the art field in India? Isn’t it rather competitive? How did you manage to break through?
It is rather difficult to break into the art field in India. Because there are so many artists and all of them are so good. I believe in working, so I paint and let my art speak for itself. I am still getting there. I have a long way to go. I have a lot to learn and a lot to paint.

Who are some contemporary and veteran artists—international and local, you admire?
If I speak about old masters then my favorites are Rembrandt and Van Gogh, especially because both of them treated the ‘different’ path at their times and dabbled in styles that were not easily acceptable by people. In more recent times there are lots of contemporary artists who are doing new and interesting work.

How would you say your art has changed over time? What affects what you paint about?
My art has grown over the years; not only on the thought level but also at the technique level, the way I handle colors, my compositions and so on. For an artist, it is important to grow to break from what you have done previously and to attempt something new. That’s when you really become an artist. You need to stop thinking whether something will be ‘acceptable’ and do what the heart tells. I have always tried to attempt something new in every series that I have done. My earlier works are very different to my ‘faces’ series which is very different from my ‘Mind and Body’ series. The only thing that is constant in my work is the individualistic stamp of line-ism, which is my signature style. My work is ruled by my heart. I paint thoughts, though they are conceived by the mind but my heart interprets them and my hands produce them on the canvas. Sometimes I have to give a lot of thought to interpret what I want to paint, sometimes it’s just there bang on in front of my eyes.

Would you say there is a keen market for your type of art and what is the art scene like in India? How appreciative are people of your art or art in India in general?
The art market in general is facing a low at this time. There are loads of art galleries that have shut down and there is not much movement in this industry currently. I have been appreciated largely for the kind of work I do. India is gong to be the ‘it’ place for art shortly and India is also making a mark in the international scene as well. Lots of artists have been appreciated internationally and there is tremendous scope. I have received international appreciation for my work as well and have exhibited in Paris. Also, in India there is so much to do as there is not one but many art centers in one country – We have Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore etc. There are cities where I have to exhibit yet.

People or viewers rather have different interpretations of a particular piece of art. How does it feel when your art is interpreted in a way to what you meant?
Bingo – that is what art is for me! You have your own interpretations when you see a piece of art. You need to feel it as well. Honestly, I don’t usually explain what I have painted to people or discuss in details what I felt when I made a piece of art. I am open to people having their own interpretation, having their own moment with the painting. I had mine when I made it, so let the audience have theirs when they see it. Isn’t that what art is about?

How does it feel when your art is appreciated and admired? Or even in the reverse, when it is criticized for that matter?
It definitely feels good when someone likes what you have painted. An artist craves appreciation. When my work is criticized, I take it very sportingly, if the person criticizing is genuinely from the field of art and know what they is talking about; I would take notes and try to figure out where I can improve. Others don’t really bother me.

And what do you do when you’re stuck and lacking in inspiration—much like a writer when they have a case of the writer’s block?
(Laughs) Yes, I do have painters block— especially after I have completed a series. My last one lasted a year. I simply don’t paint. I browse, visit exhibition and do the regular stuff that someone does and then one day suddenly KABOOM! A thought creeps in and the blocks gone.

What can we expect to see coming out of your camp in the near future?
I am attempting some very different this time. The style will be mine of course but the treatment is very different. You will have to look out for the hidden messages. I am working on Windmills.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?
Just paint. Don’t think much. If you work hard enough and you have what it takes things will fall into place. Just paint!

~Roshni M.
(November 2009)

Brahmacharini Nishita Chaitanya

16 Nov

“The Chinmaya’s Mission’s motto is to give maximum happiness to maximum people for maximum time” ~ Brahmacharini Nishita Chaitanya

As a young girl we spent Friday afternoons at the Chinmaya Mission Ashram learning about Hinduism, posing questions and debating ideals that simply did not apply to modern life. We met many Acharya’s, religious instructors, but it had to have been Brahmacharini Nishita Chaitanya who left the greatest impact on us. A Psychologist from Australia who gave up all the pleasures of life to take up the robes, she openly admits that she was looking for a better reason for being on earth, “I was searching for meaning, a deeper purpose for my existence. I felt there had to be more than just a job, physical possessions and the images we all portray.” It was when she came across the teachings of Swami Chinmayananda, that she hit a home run. It was in 1998 that Nishitaji committed herself to a life of service. She quickly became the Acharya of Chinmaya Mission in Hong Kong and gained immense popularity amongst mission followers. Her honest and comtemporary views have made her a favorite amongst the youth who have learnt to apply traditional values to their modern lives only to achieve the ultimate balance in life. Read on as Brahmacharini Nishita Chaitanya speaks to Roshni Magazine about her life in robes, the mission and her motivation to make a difference.

What is the Chinmaya Mission?
The Chinmaya Mission is a global Hindu organization that aims to touch and transform all aspects of human life. As a spiritual movement that aims for inner growth at individual and collective levels, the Mission offers a wide array of Vedanta study forums for all ages, promotes Indian classical art forms, and operates numerous social service projects.

What drew you to the Chinmaya Mission?
What struck me straight away about Chinmaya Mission was the Clarity of Logic and the Simplicity of the Guru. There were no miracles, no paparazzi, no unnecessary packaging, just the Teacher; The Guru explaining the scriptures to the students.

What were you doing before you became a part of the Mission?
Prior to joining the Mission, I was working as a counselor having gained an equivalent to a Masters in Psychology.

What was the process from deciding to join the Mission to becoming a Brahmacharini?
I was a CHYK in Melbourne, in charge of camps and classes when I decided to join the two and a half year Vedanta training course in Powai, Mumbai. The course was monastic and very strict. We studied the scriptures; we studied Sanskrit, the language of the scriptures, so we could understand the words of the scriptures directly. We had to get up at 4.30 AM daily and do our Vedic chanting. We were trained to give discourses and explain the scriptures. We also underwent oral and written tests. For the entire duration of the course, we did not leave the Ashram grounds, had limited contact with our families, the media, technology— the world in general! On completion, if our Guru thought we were fit, and if we so desired, we were given the robes and sent to a Mission Centre to serve as a Brahmacharni.

How has life changed after you became a part of the Chinmaya Mission?
After taking the robes life changed in the sense that I belonged to a much larger family, so there was a sense of responsibility to maintain the honor and respect given to the robes. I had a continuous reminder of the fact that no one can change another person or situation, what we can do is do the best in the part we play and attempt to inspire people to change by being the kind of person we would respect. As a spiritual organization, Chinmaya Mission is project orientated. We have a constant need to educate people on culture and spirituality. I found my niche in teaching children.

How did you find the move to Hong Kong?
When I first moved to Hong Kong from Australia, it was an immense cultural shock. The physical environment of tall concrete buildings, work being given more priority than family time, the social hierarchy – it was all so different. I had to re-educate myself to understand the psyche of the man in the street. My time in Hong Kong has really broadened my understanding of society and societal issues.

What has been the most satisfying part of being a Brahmacharini?
The appreciation or gratitude on the face of the people who have benefited from the knowledge. What keeps me inspired is seeing the knowledge transform people’s lives. The icing on the cake is when people praise Gurudev –Swami Chinmayananda, when they can see His brilliance, when they come to a point where they no longer need me as they can see the way themselves.

You are also a writer of some very interesting children’s books which are based on the Hindu Gods. What made you decide to write these books?
Many of my Balavihar mothers complained to me that our Puranic stories were too violent and they didn’t like telling their kids those stories at bedtime. Also they couldn’t relate to those stories and answer their kids’ questions. I was saddened by this as our Puranic stories are full of values, but couldn’t find any books that I could recommend. So I started telling these stories in my classes and the kids loved them. But I wanted to reach more children, so I thought I would write these stories as books. That way the Puranic stories get told, the values maintained and the mothers have a resource to use.

What does the Chinmaya Mission hope to achieve?
Our Mission is to provide to individuals from any background, the wisdom of Vedanta and the practical means for spiritual growth and happiness, enabling them to become positive contributors to society. Our Motto is to give maximum happiness to maximum people for maximum time.

Where do you see the future of the Mission going?
We are not an ambitious organization. As the society changes, so will their needs. I see the Mission’s role to be mainly to fulfill the needs of the time.

Do you feel that nowadays a lot of the younger generations are not interested in their culture and religion? How does the Mission attract and keep the youth?
For youth of every generation culture and religion is just not a priority, its not that they are not interested. And this is true for most people in most generations! Gurudev’s vision was to inculcate values in children via Balavihar so when they grew into youngsters they were dynamic and full of potential just waiting to be harnessed. However for those youth that did not grow up with the Mission, we attract them by providing answers to their questions and showing them how religion enhances their daily life

What message do you have for the youth?
We get told that youth are our future, no, you are the present and you can create your own future.

~ Roshni M.
(November 2009)

Anuradha Sawhney

16 Nov

“Animal rights are the most powerful tool of social change” ~ Anuradha Sawhney

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a well-known organization all over the world but their work in India is simply remarkable. I first heard of Anuradha Sawhney, Chief Functionary and the Head of Indian operations, when I interviewed Rahul Khanna in a previous edition. He spoke so generously of her and her contribution to PETA, I knew instantly I had to get in touch with her. Immediately, you are simply in awe of presence and keen desire to make a difference in the animal world. Her accomplishments run deep and long. On a glamorous level, Sawhney works with celebs across the country who joined forces with the cause to help create awareness for animals. That said, she has risked her own safety for PETA too by going undercover to probe further into the exploitation of animals in India. It was because of these endeavors and more that she went on to earn a number of honors including the 2009 Women’s’ Achiever Award.  The ever-gracious and inspirational Anuradha Sawhney spoke to Roshni Magazine about her journey thus far, the struggles and successes.

PETA India has gain an immaculate reputation for the great work it continues to do. So firstly, congratulations! What is the mission of PETA?
Thank you for your kind words Roshni! PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of stray dogs, trade of birds etc. PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

You are the Chief Functionary and Head of Operations to PETA. What are your role and responsibilities?
As the Chief Functionary of the organization I am responsible for overseeing administration, campaigns, human resources, financial accounts, and compliance, and for liaising with celebrities and the media.

Have you always been a pet-lover? Tell us how you got involved with PETA.
Growing up, I was known as the girl who fed her lunch to the birds and dogs. As a student at St Xavier’s convent in Bokaro Steel city, I would forgo my own meals to feed the famished stray dogs on campus. Watching these scrawny, pitiful animals appear, wagging their tails very softly when they saw me and humbly lowering their heads to eat my modest meal, I did not think twice about my own hunger. I was too busy feeding my soul.

I have been helping animals ever since. I have spent much of my life rescuing cats, dogs and on one occasion, a cow. Once, while in Delhi, I came across a calf laying on the divider of a road. After asking around, I found out that she had been hit by a car and left there for two days. I could not stand the thought of this poor animal suffering one more moment, so I helped her into my own car and rushed to a shelter. I can only imagine how it must have looked as I sped through the crowded streets of Delhi with a cow in my car! Thankfully, the harrowing rescue was well worth it. Today that battered, broken little calf – who had been cast off to the side of the road like a piece of rubbish – is now a beautiful cow named Radha.

As someone who loves animals, caring for them comes naturally to me. Like us, they are creatures of God who are capable of loving and being loved. They are loyal, affectionate, inquisitive, playful –  and more often than not taken for granted by us, as if they were made only for our enjoyment or to cater to our selfish whims. I have always felt that if people would only stop to think that animals are more like us than unlike us, more of us would find it in our hearts to empathize with them and to speak out when they are being treated unkindly.

Ironically, before coming to PETA, I worked for a top leather buying house. One day, I noticed a piece of leather with hair still attached to it. When I inquired about it, I was told that the skin came from a horse in New Zealand. Horrified, I went to PETA looking for alternatives to leather. Inspired by what I saw and learned, I begged PETA to hire me, and the rest is history!!

You have been named as one of the top 50 Most Powerful Women in India by Femina. What does that kind of accolade and power mean to you?
For me it’s recognition of the animal rights movement. I feel empowered to speak up for animals. Animal rights are the most powerful tool of social change.

What are some of the achievements you can tell our readers about PETA?
In a landmark victory for the animals, PETA India and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) moved three bears from the derecognized Pratap Sinhav Udyan Zoo at Sangli to the Sur Sarowar Bear Facility in Agra.

PETA had filed a suit with the Supreme Court against the substandard and inhumane state of zoos across the country after we conducted investigations of more than 30 zoos. The court accepted the case and ordered notice to be served to all 37 respondents and directed that illegal zoos be closed.

PETA filed a lawsuit in 2002 against the state of Maharashtra and Empire Circus for turning a blind eye to the suffering of 10 tigers, nine lions and one bear. In the suit, PETA alleged that allowing the Empire Circus to keep these banned animals was in violation of a May 2001 Supreme Court ruling. Moreover, the circus was not registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India. Finally, in 2003, the tigers and lions were rescued and sent to a sanctuary in Jaipur.

CPCSEA ordered the confiscation of 37 monkeys and two goats who were taken to a rehabilitation facility in Pune. PETA was also actively involved in this rescue. Because none of the rescued monkeys had ever seen a tree prior to the rescue, they had to be taught how to climb a tree and also how to hunt for their food. Although very sick and debilitated from the trauma they endured at NIV, the monkeys are now on their way to recovery.

In October 2005, PETA received an anonymous call informing us  about the illegal breeding of Persian cats. During an undercover investigation, PETA discovered that the cats were not only illegally bred but were also kept in very bad conditions. PETA coordinated with the GSPCA to rescue the cats and they have been placed in a loving home.

Following an 18-month campaign by PETA, Mumbai announced that elephants would no longer be allowed in the city. The ban came on the heels of a report that PETA presented to the Mumbai Commissioner of Police and the chief conservator of forests, Thane Circle, pointing out that allowing elephants on roads and outside temples in the city posed numerous hazards to the elephants themselves, as well as to citizens, including cruelty to animals, the threat to human life and property, and the possible transmission to humans of tuberculosis and anthrax. In addition to prohibiting more elephants from entering the city, the ban also required that the already existing ones be removed.

How can people get involved and support PETA India?
Leave a trail of leaflets wherever you go—in the reading rack in your doctor’s waiting room, at the Laundromat, on the bus, in dressing rooms and so on. Also enclose a leaflet with every bill payment. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about an animal-related issue. Take advantage of suggestion boxes and consumer comment cards: Praise practices that help animals and criticize those that hurt animals. Join PETA’s activist network  and subscribe to PETA E-News  (www.petadishoom.com)  PETA will link you to activists in your area and alert you when quick action is needed on national, regional, or local animal issues. Speak out! Within earshot of another shopper at the market, talk with a friend about a video you saw on factory farming. Jump into radio call-in discussions. Call a health show with info on vegetarianism, or call a show on budget cuts to talk about government subsidies of animal agriculture and experiments. Arrange a talk on vegetarianism, animal testing, or cruelty-free living at a local college, church, or civic center. Contact PETA at Info@petaindia.org to borrow a video. Encourage young people to get involved in animal protection. PETA has Web sites specifically designed for kids ages 6 to 14 (http://www.PETAIndiaKids.com) and for teens and young adults ages 15 and over (http://www.petadihoom.com).

Keep a stack of stamped postcards by your television, along with the addresses of TV stations. Whenever you see a show that promotes or trivializes animal abuse, jot down the station, program, scene, and date. Use a postcard to convey your concerns— politely to the network. Remember to thank networks for programming that promotes animal rights. Call or write to companies that still test their products on animals to tell them that you won’t purchase their products until they permanently ban animal testing  Educate! Most people don’t know how easy it is to change habits that hurt animals. As people become more aware of cruelty to animals, they become more serious about putting an end to it―and you can help them put their compassion into action.

What are some campaigns that PETA India is currently working on?
Our major campaigns are:

  • Get elephants banned from circuses.
  • Get a ban on glass-coated manja.
  • Get a ban on cosmetics testing on animals and ban on the sale of products that are tested on animals.
  • Get schools to stop requiring leather shoes as a part of school uniforms.
    Reform the factory farming industry.
  • Get all municipalities to implement spay/neuter programs.

PETA India is supported by a number of celebrities through various outlets. How do you get them involved and what kind of responses have they created in the past?

PETA’s main goal is simple: educate the public and inspire people to grassroots action. We can’t get people to stop buying, for example, leather shoes, if they aren’t aware of the cruelty involved in leather production. Getting the news out in the media, therefore, is vital.  Unlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations, we cannot afford costly ad campaigns, and thus have to rely on getting free “advertising” through media coverage. We have learned from experience that the media thrives on celebrity doings and the chance of them reporting on animal rights issues skyrockets when a celebrity is involved.

This approach has proved amazingly successful–in the decade since PETA India was founded, it has grown into the largest animal rights group in the country. We have also had major groundbreaking successes.

Some of the victories were accomplished by months of undercover investigation, careful documentation, and a tireless pursuit of justice through the courts, and others by colorful demonstrations, stunts, and campaigns. Throughout it all, celebrity involvement has helped us maximize the media coverage of our work, thereby increasing exponentially the number of people who hear and think about these issues.

Does PETA only work with urban India or rural India too? And how?
We work in both rural and urban India. In rural India, we work on helping working animals and animals farmed for meat and milk. In urban areas, we inform consumers about how to make choices that are cruelty free.

What are the some of the drawbacks and challenges you personally and PETA has faced in the past and currently?
I have faced a lot of derision from my family and friends because of the path I have chosen to go down as they all feel why animals and also because many of them are meat eaters so they are always defensive!

We can always use more support, both from the government and the volunteers donating their time and energy to help the animals.

When an abandoned or abused pet is found, what happens next? I know that PETA does not believe in keeping pets in zoos.
We try to place rescued wildlife in sanctuaries where they have proper care, room to roam, and the companionship of others of their kind.

What message do you have for our readers with regards to yours and PETA’s cause?
I hope that someday there will be no elephants in circuses, kept in shackles, beaten with bull-hooks, and denied their family lives and their freedom; that cosmetic testing and the zoos will be outlawed the world over, as they already have been in England and several other countries; that wonderful natural fibers and synthetics will be chosen over leather; and that responsible parents will raise their children not to acquire the meat addictions of my generation, which have brought us heart attacks, cancer, and stroke, as well as causing immense suffering for animals. I hope that all the animal laboratories will have closed down and that it will be illegal to keep any dog on a chain, shivering through the cold weather while the families they long to interact with enjoy the warmth of their homes.

PETA’s message is that each one of us is a vital player in life’s great orchestra. Every day, our choices can either help perpetuate or stop needless violence. I hope that everyone will join us in making the world a less violent place for all living beings.

~Roshni M.
(November 2009)

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