personal


Education expedition 1

I arrived in London on the 2nd June. We were quickly whisked away to Antoinette Hotel right next to Kingston University. Kingston is a quaint little place with cosy little houses. Lots of roses growing in everyone’s yard. The weather was perfect unlike the many predictions of rains. In fact it seems we got along a little sunshine here because it was after quite a gap that the rains had stopped. After freshening up, we went to see the Graduate fashion week at Central london. On this particular day, the show was put up by the students of the Fashion department at Kingston university. (More on that in the next post).

Nelson Mandela Said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. How true are those words!

Right from day one, My colleague (a journalist) & I were taken to various departments at Kingston university, to get a taste of what all courses they have to offer. I must say that each and every department is highly specialised in its field with the latest machines, facilities & techniques to impart knowledge. We also saw the outcome of such knowledge at various places, especially the arts & design show put up by various sub departments of the art & design faculty. It was really interesting to say the least.

On day one, we met Fiona Curran, Senior Lecturer, School of Performance & Screen, to talk about the Performance, Screen & Film Making courses. Accompanying her were two Indian students as well. Both of them were quite confident about their prospects after the course completion. We were told  by them that making a movie without a sponsor is no mean feat, not to forget the difficulties faced as a female film maker, but they had ample help from the film making student community itself. It is a perfectly balanced ecosystem where everyone helps each other promptly knowing that one day they would be asking for help as well.

This was followed by a meeting with Shabana Ansari, an Indian student doing MA in creative writing. She told us that all courses are paired with another course which is more vocational in nature and can help students get a job till the time their primary occupation doesn’t get them started on a regular income. That is a very good strategy especially as far as the “subjective” skills like writing, film making, design etc go. Shabana has just come out with a book published by her as part of her curriculum and the pride was evident on her face.

After lunch, we went to a different campus of Kingston university (various departments are housed in the vicinity and some are a little distance away as well). This particular department was dedicated to Art & Design courses & facilities. We met Jake Abrams, Principal Lecturer in Illustration & Animation, who gave us a tour of the Art and Design studios and workshop facilities. The entire building was one large beehive of creativity. Various courses like Photography, Fashion, Architecture, Fine art, Graphic design, Illustration & Animation, Interior design, Product and furniture design, etc are offered here. Unlike the other campus, this whole department looked like one giant art installation. There was a show called the “moving image” going on, where all the departments had put up the creme de la creme works of each department. It was really amazing. It is not only interesting to see a new person’s perspective on something old, it is interesting to note the difference that new culture brings on Art. One example of an art installation is

It reminds me of childhood!

And a glimpse of the photography exhibition.

The next day, we met Professor Julius Weinberg, Vice Chancellor, Kingston University – who is ALSO doing an undergraduate course at Kingston university himself! Due to this fact, he knows the ins and outs of all situations faced by students. He told us quite a few interesting achievements of Students from KU. For eg. Kingston produces the most graduate startup companies in UK. Facebook – yes THE facebook invited product & furniture design students of KU to furnish their conference space with prototypes & they liked the pieces so much that they made them permanent. The illustration & animation students have received worldwide acclaim by being featured in the “creative review”. Photography grad student’s work was acquired by Tate gallery. There are so many accolades & achievements that they can’t be listed here. But one thing is apparent for sure. The students get a global platform to stand out on and they made full use of it.  He was also interviewed by my journalist colleague. The interview can be read here.

This was followed by a showcase of MBA, business courses and tour of Business School. Again this was a separate campus and a very green one at that. We met Kent Springdal – Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategy, Marketing & Innovation and more Indian students again. They were all very confident and had already started working on their startups. Most had prior work experience as well. Needless to say, this department seemed to provide them the perfect skills that all entrepreneurs need. They are all guided by dedicated mentors who are with them throughout the process. It’s a very good way of landing a job before the student visa expires!

We also met Dwain Reid – Entrepreneurship Project Officer whose main job is to assist budding entrepreneurs of KU. There are courses like the Enterprise programme that help students learn right from the basics of how to register as self employed to the toughies like Intellectual property protection, applying for funding, cashflow, PR, social media etc. The course can be attended by students of sister universities of KU as well. All in all it’s a very good bootcamp for all those who dream big.

On the final day we visited the Science, Engineering & Computing department & met Dr. Steve Barton who showed us around the campus. Needless to say, the faculty was very well equipped with all kinds of machines & devices – be it bio-medical or chemical. It was freaky seeing very large electromagnets and huge tanks full of liquid nitrogen for cryogenics etc! We also visited various labs & saw the students working on preciser than precise machinery to ascertain things that are eventually life altering. A very popular picture from the science department is this picture of lockers depicting the periodic table!

As part of the final touch, we did one of the most interesting things ever. We did a Tour of Forensics House including a crime scene! Well, the crime scene had been “fixed” for us, as is done for students of the forensics department. But it was really exciting as expected. Accompanying us was Tracy Davies, Senior Technician, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing. The forensics department at KU has a forensics house where they use animal entrails, real (animal) blood and a lot of other stuff to depict a crime scene. The students have to be “on job” complete in the required suits, collecting evidence etc. The crime scene set up for us wasn’t as gory thankfully. It had a toppled chair, a knife strewn about, strands of hair, half filled beer glasses and a tiny blood spatter to show trickle from weapon or trickle from finger. Here’s an example

 We guessed a couple of things based on the clues and felt really suave as if we were starring in CSI. However, those who do this in real life have a huge responsibility on their shoulders! Not to forget seeing so much graphic detail in the job, must be tough mentally as well. Sadly, We missed out on the lie detector test that had been planned for us earlier.

We also had interaction with the teams that prepare the students to get placements as well as the ones that help the students with their visa paper work right from pre-arrival days, till the final placement days. The work permit after graduation is THE number one issue all Non-EU students face. But the good news is that it’s not all that difficult if the job application process is done systematically in advance. Typically students have 3 months after graduation (down from 2 years limit earlier) but many land jobs before that.  Many students end up in unskilled jobs (eg. as waiters) just to support maintenance costs & the grad degree clearly doesn’t add anything in these cases. Understandably it can get difficult with a new culture, geography, environment etc as add on factors, but this sort of a thing is frowned upon and students are encouraged to plan their job applications in advance. All the student entrepreneurs, who don’t land jobs, also have an opportunity to get a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa given by KU to 15 deserving students each year. KU has the International student advisory centre set up specifically for helping out in these immigration and work permit issues.

Overall, the little slice of life that we saw at Kingston university was very enriching. I am sure the students here get world class education and seeing the track record of the univ, their students also get placed rather well. As someone said, Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Even for us, non-students, it was a very enlightening experience.

Up next – the fun stuff at KU!

(this is the 2nd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the first part)



London Thumakda

A few months back I was contacted by Kingston university. They wanted to invite me to take a tour of their campus, check out the various courses offered and see what life is like out there. Now, I don’t have any direct connection to universities or the profession of teaching (except for being the daughter of one), but I have been contemplating since quite a few years about doing a course on photography (the art, not the technique) from London or Paris. That would give me a global perspective, get me exposure to many more luminaries in the field as well as allow me to globe-trot more often. On hearing the details of what all Kingston University has to offer to their students, I must say, it took me no time in saying yes to their generous offer!

As some of you on twitter might have guessed by my tweets, I have already reached London and Well, now is the time to strike off London from my bucket list! London and New york are two cities I have always been in love with, without having visiting them!

The plan at Kingston university is quite exciting. I’ll be interacting with faculty, students and departments indulging in Creative writing, Illustration & Animation, Art and Design, MBA, Strategy, Marketing & Innovation, Marketing Communications & Advertising etc. – basically quite a few areas of my interest. I’ll also be interacting with Faculty staff connected with India & some Kingston University Alums from India to hear about their experiences and see the kind of support they get in their respective endeavours. I am however, most excited about yet another interaction, which is a Tour of Forensics House on the campus, including a crime scene. Female Sherlock Holmes, anyone?

The KU interaction is not just all work and no play. There will be a boat ride on the river Thames as well as a fashion show put up by the graduate students.

The planned duration of the official trip is from 2nd June – 5th June. I am also planning to explore London on my own, in the patches of free time I get. I wish I was here longer, because knowing a city needs some living in it. I am also extending my trip beyond the touring of Kingston university and plan to visit places in/around London as well as Scotland, Ireland till 13th June. Those nearby, give a shoutout!

In the meanwhile, KU is planning some overseas interaction for the benefit of prospective students. The list of events in India is here.

The purpose of this post is (like previous similar activities) not just to talk about the university I am visiting, but also to present my perspective of a prospective student, hopeful of learning more about the Art scene in Europe. Needless to say there will be lots of intertwined bits to do with experiencing a new city, a new country, a new culture – one that I am particularly excited about because of our “common” heritage. The hashtag for the event is #KUexperience but I am NOT planning to use it for every single tweet I write while in London. For the record, this is NOT a contest or a paid event. Here’s hoping for clear skies, pristine locales & interesting experiences. I hope you would enjoy “virtual traveling” with me as much as I would on ground. And hopefully, this should get me back on the blogging track as well!



Evanescence – my fine art photography show 27

After publicising my first solo fine art photography show, Evanescence [pronounciation], all over my online “properties”, I realised I hadn’t blogged about it at all! (Though I did microblog it on twitter if that counts). The main reason why I didn’t, was because I think no one reads my blog anyway 😛 since I am more active on twitter, so if you are reading this pliss let me know. Another reason was that I hadn’t officially blogged about the very important, life altering, transition from my IT industry job as a Project Manager to a totally new avatar – A photographer and a Social media consultant (More on that later).  This is also a feeble attempt to add ‘normal’ content to my blog and not just use it for digital activism.

So here goes! It gives me great pleasure to invite you to my first solo photography show!

About the exhibition

Evanescence - my fine art photography show

Evanescence denotes things which are transient. They could be events, people, objects, thoughts, feelings, glances or moments which are ephemeral in nature. But they certainly do exist and that presence has been captured by me in this series. Through “Evanescence”, I string together various slices of life with shots snatched from the streets, fleeting moments seized just before they disappeared or almost imperceptible moments of history grabbed from eras gone by.

Opening : 6pm till 9pm on May 28, 2010 (there were some rather exotic snacks and drinks)
Venue : Bagel’s Café, D-140, The Shopping Mall, Arjun Marg, DLF City I, Gurgaon
Exhibition Dates : May 28, 2010 till July 8, July 22, 2010 (Update: date extended by 2 weeks!)
Opening Times : Daily 8am to 10pm

The showcased photographs are available as Limited Edition prints.

The map of the location is here and a rather cool embedded thingy here.

View “Evanescence” at Bagel’s Cafe, Gurgaon in a larger map


RSVP – twilightfairy at gmail.com, # nine eight one one five one one seven one nine

It’s on for 1.5 months, so see you there!



It’s a Woe-man’s world 101

Recently Mail Today asked me to write an anecdotal article for them. It got published on 31st Jan’10 (best viewed in IE).  Here’s the unedited version of the article (which has one anecdote extra). Awaiting bouquets/brickbats in comments. 🙂

It’s a Woe-Man’s world

“Some husbands are living proof that a woman can take a joke”. How else does one explain the umpteen number of smart, intelligent, independent women getting married to chauvinists & changing their entire outlook for that mandatory milestone in life that we call “marriage”? They believe they need to either do that, or get slotted into the “failure” category. I see some of them living double lives – one when they are outside the home and one when they are under scrutiny of their in-laws.

Gone are the days when the typical matrimony setup had the boy’s family visiting the girl’s with the girl coyly handing out tea & demonstrating her obligatory culinary/sewing/singing/knitting (take your pick) skills. Cut to the present – now families meet in public places a.k.a. crowded cafes where the ‘boy’ & the ‘girl’ are given some time alone after both parties size each other in noisy environs & wonder who’ll foot the bill. Most such meetings end up poorly (literally) since there’s hardly any interaction before the two parties meet, no picture exchange, the only conversations on phone being limited to the “elders”. The entire premise is based on the concept of suitable “bio data” where almost everyone writes things like “hobbies – listening to music” and at most horoscope matching. The ‘boy’ & ‘girl’ in question usually squirm under the scrutiny of the opposite party, utter obligatory nonsense and return back with the real picture getting clearer much later with a phone call. One figures that the only “type” one would meet under these circumstances are “mama’s boys”.

A better method still, some “boys” & “girls” and sometimes even entire families, hang around on matrimonial websites a.k.a. glorified dating sites (& other unmentionable terms in a family newspaper). The goal for at least some of us, is to meet educated, employed, decent AND available men (the last being a very important attribute since most available men lack the first three qualities). But the assumption that one would meet such men beyond the realm of their mother’s pallus, shatters soon enough with the kind of experiences one faces on such sites.

Take for instance the typical “orkut fraandsheep request” type users who flock the site, spamming anyone with a profile, after all it takes only a click. Or the freeloaders with a daily income less than the cost of a peanut butter jar, who can’t write to save their life. I’ve been contacted by men between the ages of 21-62, with professions as varied as “Sweeper” to “Zamindar”, marital status ranging from divorcee-with-2-kids to got-married-a-month-back-now-separated. Some weirdos give reasons like “I’ve no problem with the age difference of just 6 months but my parents want an age difference of at least 3 years” as if its the parents who were going to wed me. Some (including the weirdo category) forget having been written off via a previous profile of theirs & reconnect anyway, when they create a new profile all over again. The online world does give freedom of expression but seemingly the parental pallu extends here too at times! Right from being called up early one morning by an NRI who was ensuring that I was female, thanks to a bad experience with a gay masquerading as a girl on a matrimonial site, to hearing about how one “profile user” stole another’s credit card when they met, to people plagiarizing someone elses pictures & passing them off as their own forgetting that SOME day they’ll meet people they contact, to the people one rejects stalking one on ones social networking profiles – I’ve seen it all!

But don’t take me to be “choosy” just yet. I went through the matrimonial process for many years, putting in my entire free time into the search & approached it very methodically. Taking a cue from another “organised user”, to make sense of the information overload, I maintained excel sheets for the various people I contacted & those who contacted me. The sheet got updated daily with the meticulousness & dedication I would assign only to my finances. Talking of finances, I might as well add, working in the IT industry for several years put me in a decent salary bracket & allowed me to possess my own car and house. With time, I moved out of my parents place and started living independently in the aforementioned house & swooshed around the city in the aforementioned car. Now that is considered a very bad move as far as the marriage market is concerned. I instantly got typecasted into the “fiercely independent” category and I could imagine the rejection thought process of the parents of prospective grooms – “live in boyfriends”, “can’t adjust into family”, you get the picture. Having a head between my shoulders, that actually does think & opine, does not help matters either. With time, taking cue from some online matrimonial profiles which stated clearly that they were looking for people earning as much or above their salary level, I added something to that effect in my profile as well. As expected I received mixed results. Some people could identify with it, whereas a lot of others contacted me on the sites only to harass me for the “attitude”. One guy wrote “You have such proud (sic), just coz u have lakshmi ki kripa.” That response was just begging for a reply & got it. I wrote “Yes, I am blessed with Lakshmi ki kripa, but you aren’t even blessed with Saraswati ki kripa — you can’t even write properly!”. Another user with misplaced patriotism contacted me just to tell me “You Pakis! Just go back to your country!” because my profile stated that my grandparents had migrated during partition from what is now Pakistan!

Even the traditional methods like matrimonial ads in newspapers or getting details of eligible matches through family friends & relatives yield similar results. In one particular instance the family seemed great, the “boy” seemed charming & possessed the four above mentioned attributes. Everything seemed just picture perfect. The family wanted to meet me & my parents at their place. Eventually we met & they instantly adopted me as their would-be daughter-in-law. The “boy’s” mom couldn’t stop fawning over me and kept gushing about something or the other. So much sudden love completely freaked me out. But it all fell into place when the hyperexcited mom of the boy in question took me aside & gave me a short lecture about how men are always careless, fickle minded, naughty and give in to temptations and how it was up to “us women”, the honourable creatures who could hold fort in such situations. Later the “boy” confessed to having been caught by his parents in a compromising position with a, well … friend. Ekta Kapoor’s serials had not started then, else the gushing mother in law, would have been quite the perfect caricature!

Even if one ignores the rotten apples, it’s a fact that most men in the marriage market have their expectations arising from the typical image of a wife who is “gharelu”, submissive, doesn’t talk back and “obeys”, perhaps created by the way we are brought up. Didn’t some elders say, TV is the root cause of all evil? It certainly rings true in this context.

Is it a crime if a woman is more successful or smarter than her better half? Well most men take that as a sign of their own failure. Some of my classmates from engineering, well educated people with good family backgrounds, actually wanted a wife who would NOT work after marriage! Strangely they never had a problem dating their own ambitious classmates from college but when it comes to the “wife search” it’s perhaps more about the apprehensions of these men than about the attributes of the women they look for! Surprisingly having a sister who also aspires to be independent doesn’t make any difference when the search for another female family member commences. The hypocrisy continues. I have observed that parents who believe in stereotypes mostly impose them on their progeny too. Someone who has the freedom to make his/her own choices is the kind of person who would also respect his better half’s choices & not get intimidated by them. The search for that kind of someone is still on, but till the time, the elusive groom who fits required attributes and does NOT get intimidated by me, comes, I go by what Carrie Bradshaw says “Why get married and make one man miserable when I can stay single and make thousands miserable?”