Archive | June, 2009

“Ask and Ye Shall Be Told!”

18 Jun

Welcome to the first edition of Roshni Magazine. Yes, I named the magazine after myself, but no, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. The concept behind Roshni magazine is simple: highlight and spotlight South Asian around the world who have or are working their way up the ladder to success. Light and more light, “Roshni!” my father exclaimed. And thus Roshni Magazine was born.

Roshni Magazine is basically a collection of ongoing interviews. Since I can remember, I’ve always had a case of the Curious George syndrome. As I took my first steps onto the path of journalism my thorough enjoyment when interviewing personalities from all walks of life; hearing their stories, learning from their mistakes, seeking inspiration, and most importantly satisfying my hunger for curiosity. Personally I also believe everyone has a story to tell followed by a few lessons the rest of the world can learn from. Through Roshni, I hope readers will be able to gain greater insight from these incredible personalities.

For our first edition, we were extremely lucky to interview a great range of South Asians from all over the world who individually had much to say.

Whatever your reason for reading, I do hope you take away a meaningful lesson, an endearing story, or are further inspired to follow your dreams.

Enjoy!

Love and Light,
Roshni M.

Somy Ali

17 Jun

“I really wanted to create a movement with So-Me” – Somy Ali

Somy Ali has perhaps come full circle in her life. She started out as a Bollywood actress in an unhappy relationship with a superstar. Ali decided to quit the industry, let go of her love association and get on with life, “I was eager to do a 180 and focus on education rather than spending the rest of my life in superficiality. Therefore I decided to leave Mumbai in 2000 to get my bachelor’s degree in psychology in Florida.” To her credit, she attained a Masters degree in Journalism, and later a degree in film making to quench her thirst for documentary film making. However, it was only a few years later she began her diligent advocacy for Humanitarianism and came up with the ever so unique, So-Me Designs. “I was annoyed with the “Who needs a brain when you have these” and other vulgar tees going around and made it a mission to counter those with sexy, yet, intellectual clothing. Hence, So-Me was born in September 2007,” she tell Roshni Magazine. Read on hear more about her journey thus far, her battles and the passage she has planned.

Do you have any background in fashion?
None. But I have learned a great deal and made many mistakes along the way. My brother, Mohammad, joined So-Me in 2008 to handle sales and production and he has been a huge asset to the company. He and I both have our strengths and weaknesses and we try to focus on the former.  My brother has a great business sense which complemented my desire to change the world.

How did you develop this idea of fashion with awareness?
I really wanted to create a movement with So-Me. My background in doing talk shows on social issues in college and then making short films on women’s rights for nonprofits are all intertwined with So-Me’s mission.

We all are a walking advertisement with our clothes for many corporations whose only goal is to make money and I wanted to walk around wearing something noteworthy by being a voice for those who are voiceless. I wanted to take a stand against injustice with my clothing line as well as No More Tears (NMT), my nonprofit.

So-Me tee’s are fashionable and yet each individually speak a thousand words. How do you find a balance between both so it doesn’t lean one way or another?
That’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be sexy, yet intellectual, sophisticated, yet an activist. Although I must admit, it’s not easy to come up with how we can take something negative, a human rights issue, into something positive and sexy. We decided to focus on how things should be rather than how they are. Nobody wants to go to his or her closet and wearing depressing designs that depict the injustices that occur to the helpless.  So we face a challenge where we want people to know about all the bad in the world, yet we have to make it look good.

How is the money raised used for humanitarian causes?
Ten percent of the net profit goes to NMT. NMT is my nonprofit to help rescue domestic violence victims and their children that are brought to the U.S. via arranged marriages.

There are so many issues So-Me Design associates itself with: animal abuse, racism, social issues, environmental concerns and so on. How did you manage to incorporate many various organizations to be a part of your clothing line?
We approached nonprofits that are doing good and saving lives. They were immediately interested in joining us in our mission.

How socially conscious would you consider yourself and which issue disturbs you the most?
I am learning every day. But I do my share of recycling, planting trees and of course So-Me is green. What disturbs me the most is when people are apathetic towards the environment, when people do not understand the threats of global warming are real.  However, it is hard to say which issue disturbs me the most.  There are many issues that affect so many every day that it is difficult not to be disturbed by all of them.

How much of an activist are you personally?
I am an activist in any situation there is a need to be one. It could be for men, women, children, or animals; I will not back down if I witness a wrongdoing. We cannot live this life in apathy and shake our heads from left to right complaining how awful things are. I am a Gandhi follower; he’s my hero. I will go all the way with my activism especially if it saves a life or helps someone obtain justice.

How hard or easy was it to get into mainstream fashion considering that fashion is extremely competitive in the U.S.?
It was very difficult and still is. We sell through our website and supply to high-end boutiques. Our sales representative, Lisa Finks, has been wonderful in getting our line in various boutiques all over South Florida. I still remember initially when I first started out on my own a few boutique owners turning us away and some not wanting to carry our “Human being” tee or anything with religious symbols. It is sad because that is one of So-Me’s goals. We want to emphasize that we are all one.  We want to love those that hate in order for them to change and love back.  That is what Gandhi did and was tremendously successful.

When do you feel you had “arrived?”
I would have to say when my brother joined So-Me in 2008. He is excellent at sales and advertising. I do not have a business mind so he and I were both in the office ensuring that we did not lose sight of our vision but also that we did not lose money. My brother definitely helped take So-Me to the next level.

How did you market yourself so that that famous personalities actually picked up a So-Me design and wore it while being pictured by the paparazzi? Which celebs are have been spotted wearing a So-Me?
Thus far, Fergie has been a huge supporter of So-Me. We have not made any specific efforts to reach out to celebrities. We are in the process of initiating a relationship with a PR firm in the near future.  However, it is great that a celebrity shares that same vision as we do.

Where do you see So-Me designs headed in the next few years? Perhaps more international?
Our goal is to reach people that want to create change all over the world. Even now, we get orders on our website from South Asia, Europe and of course various parts of the U.S. Eventually I want So-Me stores everywhere.  I have to leave the details to the first store opening but will let you know that they will be very unique in their décor.

Any chances we’ll see you back on the big screen or are you going to keep with direction and script writing?
Now it is all behind the scenes for me. I am not undermining my life as an actor, but I believe being an activist and making a change is my true calling. This is what I was born to do. I mean I am saving lives through No More Tears, literally!  Movies may bring people joy but it is no comparison to changing lives.

Do you miss being in the limelight in India as opposed to the more anonymous life in America?
Yes, of course I do. Who would not miss a life of people being at your beck and call? But that was a different life all together and I was younger back then. I enjoyed it for what it was. Now in my thirties, this is a different chapter, a chapter where I deem myself accountable for my actions and try to make others for theirs.  Life is not what people think of you; it is about what you think of people.

What do you miss most about India and Pakistan? What is one thing you always do when you head back home?
I have not been back since 2000, which is basically when I left India. I miss the authenticity of both cultures, in terms of the food, the family getting together, and my friends that I left behind.

Any message for your fans?
Be a non-conformist. Never let society dictate the way you should live your life, as long as you are not hurting anyone in the process. And above all, always try your best to do the right thing.  Help people especially those who everyone else has forgotten.

~Roshni M.
(June 2009)

Anu Peshawaria

16 Jun

“What impressed me the most about United States was the fact that the government gives recognition to exceptional persons and encourages talented persons to immigrate” – Anu Peshawaria

Anu Peshawaria is one the most inspirational Indian women to walk earth. She began her walk down fame as a professional tennis player who won many accolades for India. Her real dedication came in the form of social work in helping women who walk the aisle in NRI marriages only to become victims of various daunting situations. SevA, an organization founded by the immigration lawyer, is her means of assisting these women and informing them of their legal rights. While she has great support in the Bay Area, SevA is has a clear vision, and are always on the lookout for more encouragement from the community. Roshni Magazine sat down to discuss Anu’s life thus far, SevA and her accomplishments.

Born and bought up in India, how did you make your move to the U.S.?
I used to travel very extensively for tennis matches and that gave me tremendous international exposure at a very young age. When I was in school I got tennis scholarships and was offered a green card in USA but I was not interested to move to US. Ultimately when my mom passed away I decided to move with my son to USA and took the green card under extraordinary ability and that is what made me decide upon living here!

What impressed me the most about United States was the fact that the government gives recognition to exceptional persons and encourages talented persons to immigrate. I started my tennis foundation and a legal office in California because I simply loved this place.

When it comes to decide where I want to live, I still think I will return to India. However I love California as it has the best weather and my son and family is settled here permanently.

Why and how did you found SevA?
I founded SevA Legal Aid in 2005 with the help of like minded friends and volunteers however I had been devoting my time to free legal aid as long back as 1983 when I completed law school. When I was very young still in school I used to always wonder how laws are made. Then I realized if there is society then automatically customs followed by them take the shape of laws. Laws constantly evolves and so does society and culture.

The idea of forming SevA Legal Aid came to me because I felt their was a tremendous need to simplify the laws as they had become very complex Also their was a tremendous need to make them universal since migration and globalization had made it nearly impossible to follow different laws in different countries. Common people do not understand complex laws and commit crime inadvertently. It has to be someone’s duty to make them understand these complexities and who else can do it better than compassionate lawyers.

What is SevA’s goal? How do they help women?
Seva’s goal is to understand customs, laws and culture and help society to be just and honest and follow laws thereby making society a better place.

We help all people including women. We realized we had a problem when women from India were quickly getting married to grooms in US, Canada and UK. The marriages went sour very quickly and sometimes the women were left in India having no recourse to justice. In these cases usually it’s the children who suffer therefore we try and help these families reunite or separate in the best interest of the children.

How did you get involved in SevA?
I got involved with the very motto of SevA which is compassionate justice!

What do you hope to achieve from SevA?
I hope to achieve justice, happiness and peace of mind for all fellow human beings.

Why the capital “A” in SevA?
Capital A is not for any particular reason but maybe because my dad always referred to me as A for Anu and A for Anu the atom. He used to tell me when I was very young that anu means atom. Atom is the smallest molecule in the world and yet the most powerful. That is why I always handle the A with lot of care and respect!

You have received many awards. How do they make you feel?
I feel very humbled but awards and recognition are not the only measures of success. Success is when one feels happy and content from within and one is most happy when friends and family are happy! Therefore my goal is to live life fully, be content and happy and pass bring happiness in other peoples lives.

You have so many titles to you name: Social worker, lawyer, tennis player. Which is one you love the most?

I love social worker the most as it really is who I am and it also encompasses my contribution to society as a tennis player and as a lawyer.
However, I loved the time I played tennis the most and won trophies for India. I was most happy to see our flag go up each time I represented India.

Where do you hope to take SevA from here?
I hope to get more and more people involved in this noble cause and hope that we can create a society that all of us are proud of.

How can people in the community and otherwise get involved in SevA?
They can get involved by becoming a member. It’s free of cost. They can either be a volunteer, a donor or simply a friend who can share his views with us. For becoming a member you could visit www.sevalegalaid.com.
What cause will it be supporting and working towards?
It will be supporting the cause of Indians marrying their children in foreign countries as they often fall prey to false information and ruin their future and the future of their children by not making enough enquiries about the man or woman before hand and vice versa.

How can people in the community get involved?
They can get involved by assisting SevA in creating awareness and doing workshops and campaigns

How can the youth get involved?
The youth can get involved in our crime prevention workshops’, our teen dating workshops and many more. For visit our website at www.sevalegalaid.com or http://www.indiavisionfoundation.org or www.eindiaverify.com or call us in the US at +1 (510) 299-1907

~ Roshni M.
(June 2009)

Kiran Gidwani

16 Jun

“Victoria Beckham, George Clooney, Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta are some always well dressed celebrities” – Kiran Gidwani

Kiran Gidwani is a fashionista ahead of her time. After graduating from B.D. Somani, where she earned her fashion degree, the young and innovative designer successfully opened two stores, Istana and Kiran Designs, in the fashion hub of India, Mumbai. For the last decade, the Gidwani has been designing, consulting and merchandising for her impressive clientele consisting of socialites and film personalities all over the world. While fusion-wear is her forte, she is well-known for her traditional styles too. Her exhibitions, featured in major cities including Hong Kong, Dubai, New York, and London, have received rave reviews. Kiran speaks to Roshni Magazine about upcoming designs, fashion-wear for the upcoming season and how to beat recession blues while staying fashionable.

How did you get interested in fashion designing?
As a child, I always loved to dress up and play around with my clothes innovatively to create drapes and silhouettes with fabrics and accessories; putting them together. I would arrange fashion shows with my friends! Since then I knew I wanted to become a fashion designer and of course colors of nature, like that on colorful butterflies, fish fascinated me and I would love to use similar appliqués them on the garments I created. Besides when I would travel as a child, I would go to as many malls and shopping arcades to admire styles, colors, and cuts. Fortunately for me, my mother was already in this line and helped me pursuit my own label and then my own stores.

What are some styles that never go out of fashion?
The straight cuts in kurtas are evergreen. Sarees are our national costume and will always remain in style. In embroideries, the resham work (thread work) makes a style statement and will always be in vogue. In terms of colors, black and white are colors that will be in fashion forever.

When should one wear Indo-Western and when should one go for a more Indian style?
Fashion is about breaking the rules and setting your own trends so there is no such rule as to wear a certain type of garment at a certain occasion. But then again, if you’d like to play safe then one could follow the dress code of the event which would be stated on the invite as traditional or fusion.

What about men? What is a good fashion statement?
Most men prefer to play safe and wear the usual black or white color pallets, but a man would definitely stand out if he experimented with colors like pink, shades of green, or orange. Also men underestimate the importance of accessories, keeping all the focus on what they wear only. A good pair of shoes, smart belt, nice wallet, sunglasses and watch definitely go a long way, to make a strong fashion statement on a man.

What is going to be in-style this spring and summer? Styles?
One shoulder off tops and dresses are going to rule the runways.

Colors?
Colors of the season are emerald blue, shades of green, mauve, lilac and brown

Materials?
Velvet, lamays are the in materials for the season; embroideries are leather patch work and velvet appliqués.

Accessories?
Chunky and big is the flavor of the season. Bling is back with a bang

How should one incorporate accessories correctly so it doesn’t clash with their clothes?
Keep it minimal if the clothes are heavy or have a lot of embroidery or bling whereas a simple garment can be dressed up with chunky accessories.

Keeping the recession in mind, how can one shop correctly and budget their clothes?
Buy what you need and the key is to mix and match what you buy so it looks like different an outfit every time you wear it! Putting things together is an art and if conquered, can save you some bucks. It is important to spend on basics which can be re-used often, such as a pair of well fitted jeans, a crisp white shirt, or a black cocktail dress. But it’s not necessary to spend much on things that you’ll barely use such as a pair of purple shoes, or an orange bag. Often we indulge in retail therapy, and impulsive shopping which should be avoided, especially in a time of recession. Budgeting is very important. Buy what you can afford or you’ll end up with huge credit card bills you don’t want at the end of the month!

What should someone wear to a Sangeet? Wedding?
For variety and for it to be easier for one to dance around at a sangeet it would be better to wear a churidar kurta, rather then a sari and to a wedding reception a sari or a long gown would look elegant for women. For men a churidar kurta is ideal and one could do with a sherwani or a blazer at a wedding reception

Who are some always well dressed celebrities?
According to me Victoria Beckham, George Clooney, Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta are some always well dressed celebrities.

How can someone get in touch with you?
Kiran Gidwani designs are available at A.G.Collections and Istana.I work on appointment and one can fix an appointment with me in order to customize clothes for them at either stores or via email kirangid@hotmail.com. I also have a Facebook group: “Kiran Gidwani Designs” through which I can be contacted.

~ Roshni M.
(June 2009)

Vivek Khemani

1 Jun

“Never keep an ego— it’s of no good; it will only take you one way in life – downwards!” – Vivek Khemani

India is booming and the youth play an integral part in facilitating the “boom” as the country moves closer towards becoming a world class economical hub. Vivek Khemani, is one of those very young entrepreneurs who realizes the importance of his contribution to the nation. Savvy, smart and successful the London return, Masters and MBA Degree in-hand, has joined the family business in hopes to take the Khemani Empire to greater heights. Roshni Magazine speaks to the up and coming entrepreneur about all things business and beyond.

RM: Tell us about your business.
VK: Well, my family business, the Khemani Group, predominantly deals with keeping people happy and clean!  We are into manufacturing and distribution of alcohol in India and overseas for 25 years now. More recently, we have branched out into Personal Care products, known as PerfuNOVA. Technically, it works well for everyone – smelling terrific while drinking. It’s a winning formula!

RM: Did you always want to join the family business? If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
VK: It’s a good business to be in. When people are sad they drink; when people are merry, they drink more— people look for reasons to drink. So joining the family business made the most “business sense” to me.

(Thinks) Hmmm…if I was not in the alcohol business, I would probably be in the Education field. I would try to offer India all kinds of Business Schools from Junior High to Higher Education; from general business courses to medical, fashion and media courses. I believe if you enjoy a particular field and possess good knowledge about a subject; it can turn out to be a good business prospective.

So essentially I would make a business of making others into good businessmen or women (laughs).

RM: In your opinion, what makes a company successful?
VK: Honesty, unity and dedication. You have to have love for your business for it to be successful. Additionally, you need to have faith and belief in your trade. A very important and a key factor to a company’s success is to retain a professional yet friendly relationship with your employees every company depends upon them. It is also important to constantly hone your craft.  Successful entrepreneurs never give up; they take their failures in the best of stride and as clichéd as it sounds, turns their failures around making it the company’s strength.

RM: What qualities should a successful businessperson have?
VK: Honestly, it’s too soon for me to speak, but I personally feel, to be triumphant in business, the most important qualities once must posses are a clear vision and dynamic leadership. Successful business people set high goals and work even harder to achieve them.

RM: Who are your heroes?
VK: Dr.Vijay Mallya and Shah Rukh Khan. Both are my inspirational business heroes. Interestingly, one is a business empire in himself and the other a superstar actor who has ventured in the most dynamic fashion, into the business world.

RM: What inspires you?
VK: The family business is run by my father and his younger brother; each ones contribution being as vital as the others. They work as the perfect team, and ideally, it just so happens that ones shortcoming is the others strength. Their combined hard work, grit and determination, along with their sharp business acumen is what has lead to its magnificent success and growth. So, it’s the lethal combination of my father and my uncle that inspires me the most.

RM: Heading back to India with Masters and MBA degrees under your belt, what is the one thing you are looking forward to the most in rejoining the family business?
VK: I am looking forward to working with my cousins Amit and Sumit. I think we make a great team and compliment each other just like our fathers do. I feel very passionately about our common dreams and vision for the company: To grow in high spirits literally and figuratively!

RM: What is your weakness?
VK: My family. Ironically, they are my strength and my weakness.

RM: Tell us something unusual about yourself.
VK: I’m a teetotaller. Even though I’m in the alcohol business, I don’t drink!

RM: What do you look for in your woman?
VK: Lots of love, honesty and care for me and my family.

RM: Who is the ideal woman apart from your mother?
VK: (Laughs)The three musketeers of my family: my two loving sister-in-laws, Harsha and Sweta, and my darling cousin Reema. And of course, the woman I eventually settle down with – that should score me some brownie points ahead of time!

RM: Describe your ideal date.
VK: Venice…on the Gondola, around sevenish when the sun is just about to set and then the Gondolier starts singing in his husky voice. Relaxing on the boat with your date, enjoying your favorite drink and talking about random but interesting topics. That would be the most ideal and romantic date in my opinion.

RM: What turns you on? What turns you off?
VK: A clean heart and a good smile turn me on while and attitude and ego totally turn me off.

RM: What is the way to your heart?
Simple, sweet and a caring nature – and the person is straight into my heart. That’s all I ask for.

RM: What is fashion to you?
In my opinion, fashion to about personal style. It speaks about your personality and represents the person you are. For me it’s a pair of blue jeans paired with a crisp white shirt with a blazer. That outfit signifies me in every sense of the way – confident, calm and collected.

RM: Your fitness regime?
VK: Honestly, I don’t have a fixed fitness regime.. When I’m home in Mumbai I usually workout late at night with my trainer and additionally, try my level best to maintain a healthy diet. Since I’m a vegetarian, I usually have a protein shake before and after my workout.

RM: Favorite food?
That honestly depends what time of the day it is. Although, I’m not a fussy eater. I enjoy street food in Mumbai— as much as I enjoy home cooked meals. Though my all time favorite food would be my homemade Dal (lentils) and rice with spicy potatoes.

RM: Where would you find yourself on a Sunday?
VK: When in Mumbai, Sundays are spent at home, lounging with cousins and family. That’s the favorite day of my week.

RM: Any hobbies?
VK: I love music. Besides that I enjoy traveling, driving, playing Playstation and reading lifestyle magazines.

RM: Favorite sports to watch and play?
VK: Cricket! That’s one game I watch and play with great passion.

RM: Favorite Hollywood actor or actress?
VK: Al Pacino. He is the only Godfather that ever was and ever will be in the western film industry.

RM: What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
VK: In 10 years, I would like my second dream of opening a quality educational institution to come true.

RM: For all aspiring businessmen/women, what are your words of wisdom?
VK: Treat your business like your family and your employees like your family members. Never keep an ego— it’s of no good; it will only take you one way in life – downwards!

~ Roshni M.
(June 2009)