Making merry 1

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Ever since I arrived in London on 2nd June, we got busy with the tour around various departments at Kingston university campus. But it wasn’t just all work and no play. In fact right on the day we reached, 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.

We reached the venue in Central London and the place was swarming with fashionistas of all shapes, sizes and genders. For me the latest fashions were already there to observe in the crowd itself. Once inside, I requested the people in charge to let me stand in the media box meant for photographers and clicked a few shots from there. The designs were quite interesting and some were extremely innovative and actually wearable. The fashion show was so professional in every way possible that I thought I had landed in a clip from FTv.

It didn’t look like some graduate students were behind this. And going by the kind of front row audience, it clearly meant serious business. Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic etc attend GFW, and the KU fashion grads are considered pretty employable by them. In fact this time,  the GFW was featured in times the next day!

We really enjoyed it and headed back to our hotel. On the way we got a tiny glimpse of Central London as well – The London eye, The shard and The Gherkin. During the Kingston tour days we always had lunch & dinner with Indian faculty or Indian students or Indian alumni. It was interesting to see their insights into the process & it was good to see them doing well for themselves.

On the third day of our visit we were taken for a ride (no pun intended) on a ferry along Thames. We got in at the pier right outside Kingston University’s international office and went up till Hampton court palace & back. We were the only occupants of the ferry so it was more like a private tour! It was very scenic and peaceful. The houses along the banks looked extremely lovely in the glowing sun. The Hampton court palace glistened beautifully as well. It was a nice break in between academic discussions.

On all the nights, we ate out at various interesting places, including (but not limited to) Jamie Oliver’s Kingston’s branch.

Got a chance to visit THE Jamie oliver’s restaurant .. The food was great – the service left much to be desired! Sadly didn’t bump into Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson or Heston Blumenthal on the streets of London :).
The ultimate culinary treat was given to us by Kingston university on the last day of our visit. On this day, we were introduced to a proper English afternoon tea experience at the over-300-year-old Fortnum and Mason! After reading about tea and scones throughout my Enid blyton-ised childhood I finally had the experience  and at a very posh place at that!

We had finger sandwiches, lots of different kinds of cakes, scones (both sweet and savoury) with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam & of course tea. There was a plethora of variety in the tea and I chose a flavour called “the wedding celebration” , marking the wedding of prince William and Kate. After this we checked out some other variety of cake that was kept for patrons .. Even though we were all really full, we took a slice of exquisite looking cake topped with raspberries on the top and sponge fingers on the side. It looked like a piece of art! All this while there was a pianist playing some lovely music. I requested him to play “Skyfall” and he complied happily. It was transcendental.
The day ended on an exciting note, with us hopping onto a hop on-hop off bus and taking in the sights of the city. The weather was thankfully playing a good sport and it was lovely to be outside! Overall, the trip was a great combination of enriching academia & interesting outings. I am thankful to KU for providing me this opportunity.
Though the Harry Belafonte “Kingston town” song is about Jamaica, some of the words hold true even in this case. “But I’m sad to say,
I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day” .. Hope to visit another day!

(this is the 3rd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the 1st part & here for the 2nd part)


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Education expedition 1

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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)


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London Thumakda

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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!


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My brush with Turkey & why I want to make it real 2

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My first brush with Turkey was as a child, when we had to learn the capitals of all the countries in the world. I must have been in the third or fourth grade I suppose. Now this was in the ’80’s and one had to buy special books that contained all this information. It wasn’t as easily accessible as it is today – like the tap of a finger . That was the first time I came to know that a country called ‘Turkey’ existed. I was still unaware about a bird existing with the same name though. I learnt that the capital was Ankara and the phrase “Turkey-Ankara” just rolled off my tongue and was one of the easier ones compared to let’s say “Iceland-Reykjavik”. I knew that it was at the cross section of two continents – Europe & Asia or Eurasia, where East met west, Religions intertwined, and important trade routes existed. That formed the foundation of an indelible curiosity, that still exists about this place that I want to visit.

Over the years, Turkey kept being mentioned as part of academia. I learnt about the prominent Turkish invasions like those by Mahamud ghaznavi and Mohammed ghori, which permanently changed India as we know it today. And then followed the pop culture references. I liked listening to world music – Greek, oriental, Turkish, Finnish and many others. As expected, Turkish music has a lot of influences from Europe, Asia, Africa. It all percolated down my senses into a tiny memory pocket somewhere.

Then followed the visual influences. Even though Istanbul was part of the locations of popular films like “From russia with love”, it was only when I watched the Bollywood film “Guru”, that I got mesmerised by the beauty of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul as well as the Nuruosmaniye mosque, Istanbul, where “Mayya Mayya” was shot. After that, visuals of Turkey always sprang out at me, whenever I would watch any films shot there. And I would have a sense of deja vu, without having visited the place, ever. The latest such instance was when I watched Skyfall – the most recent Bond film and saw Daniel craig, tearing down on a motorcycle through labyrinth corridors and grand bazaar rooftops. I wanted to jump behind him and chase him over the fascinating landscape. I know the labyrinth routine was a set but at least the bazaar setting was real :).

Being a photographer, I come across a lot of ethereal travel photography, some of which is from Turkey of course. All this exposure has intrigued me even more and I really want to visit the mosques, the spice market at Istanbul, see the nightlife at Antalya, travel back in time in the underground city of Derinkuyu, experience hot air ballooning at Cappadocia & catch a sunrise while flying over the fairy chimneys, take a dip in the hot springs at Pamukkale, visit Roman ruins at Izmir and much more! I would love to immerse myself in the cultural melting pot that is Turkey, experience the Byzantine & European drifts, be at the centre of Eurasia, capture some precious memories to narrate to others and seek out the familiar India within that land! If you vote for me, I could do all this for real! Pls vote here: http://turkeytourism.in/contest-entries.php?cid=2&ceid=71

This post is an entry in the “Million Stories” Contest sponsored by the Turkish Embassy, India.


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A meet description in verse

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One sunny April afternoon,
I excitedly rushed to a blogger’s music meet,
and quickly reached the venue,
For I wanted the front seat!

 

The restaurant was quite full,
The chairs were few,
I saw some old faces,
A lot of them new.

 

Soon the program started,
And along came Prateek Shah,
Who had people introduce themselves uniquely
And the audience doing wah wah.

 

Fun was had, along with introductions,
Imagine a male couple ball dance,
The audience chose all the next participants,
and a lot of people got their 15 minute fame’s chance.

 

Soon a presentation by HP was shared,
and a music demo to everyone was given,
Some HP hi-def headphones were also awarded,
and the audience seemed driven.

 

This was followed by a much needed break,
Variety in beverages & a sumptuous snack,
Hotel Garden Inn’s high tea menu was so varied,
No one could refrain from a food attack!

 

The last part of the day,
Was what everyone was awaiting,
Our tweets with music titles had been filtered,
And people’s breaths were bating,

 

A lucky girl won an HP laptop
for tweeting Pink Floyd’s “Hey you”.
She was followed by a lucky guy,
who had managed to tweet a pre-chosen song too.

 

I immensely enjoyed the meet,
Thanks Indiblogger and Hp connected,
I didn’t win the bumper prize,
That has definitely been regretted!

 

So here’s hoping that,
this blogger meet description in verse,
will be liked by the organisers,
and a laptop I’ll manage to coerce!


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