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First Blog by the Editor

First Blog by the Editor

It took me many hours to sit here and think about what to write for my first blog on the new website. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping a blog in the past but I have to make sure this turns into a fun habit for me.  It’s strange because as an editor, I am so wrapped up in the administrative and organizational aspects of running the magazine that I am left with very little time to do what I REALLY love: writing. I also made an editorial (and personal) decision to start a creative column in every quarterly issue of Beyond Sindh magazine from this point onwards… so wish me luck. (Or rather, I should wish you luck as now you will all be subjected to my eccentric lines of thought.) Anyway I digress. Here I was – with free reign to elaborate on whichever topic I want – and yet I was stumped.

Then I figured it out. You see, in the past few years since we have started this magazine, I had been asked so often about how the idea of Beyond Sindh magazine came about and got pushed into motion… and what better way than to answer this question through this blog, for once and for all?

About five years ago I had been back in Africa with my parents for just several months, after graduating from college in Boston. I remember spending my days trying to think of ways I could avoid getting into the family import/export business. I was writing short stories on my laptop when I was supposed to work on accounting on a desk near my dad’s in the office. I was sleeping at 2 a.m. reading books and oversleeping when I was supposed to wake up at 7 for ‘office’. Of course, my dad was strict so I’d end up showering and stumbling down the steps around 9 a.m, laptop under my arm and eyes half closed. It just got to me after a while… I needed something different, something big. I had no mind for numbers or finance but instead it was whirling designs, colors, pictures, words – waiting for something to come and piece them into cohesive pieces of creative work. But I had no idea what or how. And Lome, Togo, was such a place that I was just better off staying indoors, so there was no point applying for a more interesting job outside.

To pass time, I started taking way overdue Sindhi lessons in the evenings after dinner. My dad started off with numbers then colors and then body parts and so on. He patiently repeated Sindhi words with its nasal sounds and guttural speech until I could get the hang of it, pronouncing them slow but correctly albeit with an American accent. It was fun and not only did my vocabulary grow, so did my curiosity about my dad’s birthplace in Hyderabad, Sindh. These lessons progressed into stories about the Partition and what our grandparents went through, fascinating stories I vaguely heard as a child but forgot as life got in the way. From the stories alongside the riverbank of Sindh to how this peaceful land was stolen away in 1947, I was thirsting for more and more.

There was so much richness in our history and culture, and it made me wonder – how had it taken me this long to understand it? Forget that, why had it taken me this long to be interested in where I came from, in what made me Sindhi? I had taken it for granted – having been born in the Philippines, living 5-year stints in Africa, Chicago and Curacao, studying in Boston and now back in Africa – it always felt like we were international nomads. Sindhi only by elders’ language and Sindhi by tradition, but local by culture and local by lifestyle. But that was wrong… we were so much more. And to think about how our grandparents, parents and their generations had managed to hold on to the language, habits, beliefs, culture and knowledge of our history despite losing our country is astounding. If I was unable to feel that I could pass this luxury down to my children, then how many youngsters out there were like me too? And if this was the case, how do we keep this blessing of our heritage alive?

“There was so much richness in our history and culture, and it made me wonder – how had it taken me this long to understand it? Forget that, why had it taken me this long to be interested in where I came from, in what made me Sindhi?”

One day, I was going through my old publishing projects from college and came across a mini-magazine – ‘Spyglass’, an holistic & cultural lifestyle magazine that I had created from scratch. From writing the text of all the articles to handling the design & lay-out of the pages, I did a pretty good job if I may say so (and got a pretty good grade for it too!) And just the way the thought process works (or rather, how God works), I put 2 and 2 together and the seeds of this funky Sindhi magazine were sowed into my prolific imagination. I knew with my heart that this would work. Even if I was an amateur with no real job experience, I found my track and rode on ahead. I ordered magazine publishing books off Amazon and created a business plan – made a few sample lay-outs and casually showed my parents one day. I was wary of the typical Sindhi reaction to leave all else and focus on the business but to my pleasure (and natch to your pleasure too) they gave me all the support and backing I needed.

I started recruiting young and hip Sindhi youngsters (like myself, of course) among friends of friends to conceptualize this idea. Together, our passion knew no bounds. My new writers formed a niche in which they alone would rule, like a King over their territories. Nicky was the Agony Uncle who cared deeply about your problems (not); Shawn was the smart sarcastic guy who knew every angle of every topic; Chandru was the keen observer of society with his subtle innuendos; Pooja was the editor with the thoughtful eyes and ears for words; Manju was the steady journalist ready to interview you anytime, anyhow; Dina was pleasantly introspective about life and spirituality and Ajay was the doctor who made you pee in your pants laughing and yet knew how to keep your blood pressure low. Over the last few years our team has expanded into a group of intelligent, humorous, and just plainly awesome Sindhis who care about this magazine and its growth and have loyally submitted excellent work for our readers, time and time again (and have also patiently tolerated my Hitler-istic tendencies around deadlines).

As the years went by and Beyond Sindh magazine moved (along with me) from Africa to India to finally, Hong Kong, our issues went from strength to strength. We built a reputation for dishing forth unique & interesting content and highlighting the amazing achievements of various Sindhi personas worldwide that you would have never read of otherwise. Though our readership did exceed past our expectations, there is still much more work to be done and much more education in need. I know this year we will grow exponentially and hopefully reach all the little corners of the world. There are many Sindhis left for us to reach, who need to be aware of who they are, where they’re from, and to understand why they are part of one of the greatest communities on Earth.

Well, that’s that. I’ll leave you… for now. Don’t forget to subscribe to our magazine on your way out, if you haven’t already. Wishing you and your family a productive and brilliant 2009 ahead!

I am an Indian! At least I think I am

I am an Indian! At least I think I am

This is the first blog I’ve ever written, I know that some of you know me as a geek and some as a nerd, but to be honest, I’ve never really wanted to write a blog before Rachana (Head Editor In Charge) volunteered my services for this little write up that you see here before you. I figure while I’m here I might as well tell you something that’s been bothering be for some time now.

As Sindhi’s we know who we are and where we come from. We even know our basic ancestral history and why we are all dispersed across the many corners of the world. We’ve even come to enjoy our new lives and have come to love the people we’ve become. Whether we’re in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, UK, USA, Spain, Gibraltar, Singapore, Australia, Jakarta, SriLanka some place way out in the boonies, we have all come to adopt our new accents and languages and even ways of life. This is all well and good and most of us have come to be accepted into our adopted societies and we fit in well. But once all is aid and done, are we still really Indian? How do we define ourselves as being Indian? Is it being Hindu that makes us Indian? India has large populations of Christians, Muslims, bud hists etc… so I guess no. Is it our ethnicity that makes us Indian? Well if that was the case then we could be Pakistani or even SriLankan. Is it our Language that makes us Indian? What’s the Indian Language? Is it Hindi? They don’t even speak that in the South of India… So I guess not. How do we know that we’re really Indian? What do we say when we fill in the arrival card when we land in India for the first time in our lives with our foreign accents, foreign passports, western style of dress, and western influenced music in our iPods?

I’ve lived in India now for 4 years and to be honest, I don’t really feel all that Indian. I’ve been called an NRI, a foreigner, an ABCD (which is just mean!) and one time I was yelling at a guy who almost ran me over at the airport, to which he exclaimed: “Here in India we don’t do such things.” I have 100% Indian blood in me, my parents are Indian and their parents are Indian!! I don’t need to speak Hindi in South India because no one else does. I wear the same clothes that the rest of the population my age wears and I will stuff my face full of Dosa’s and Raan if given the opportunity. Now based on all these facts, I should be Indian. But I don’t feel like it. I walk down the street and everything I see is still Alien to me, the people I can’t seem to relate to most of the people I meet. I hate driving here more than I’ve hated anything in the world, and I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the devil may cry attitude that Indians have for themselves and their own country.

When I was living in the Philippines I knew I was an outsider, I was a totally different race from the indigenous population, and I was fine with it. But being an outsider in my own country, the place that I have associated myself with for my whole life… it’s a strange feeling to finally come home and realize that I don’t belong here. If I don’t belong in the place where I was born, and I don’t belong in the place where I’m from then where do I belong? Where am I from? I’m Sindhi, does that mean I should go back to Sindh in Pakistan? Do I roam the world looking for a place that will accept me as one of them?

As Sindhis we grapple with the fact that we left home a long time ago, and we adjusted to where we ended up, but have we lost that touch of who we are and where we came from? Will we ever be accepted as Indians not out of politeness of political correctness or even on a technicality, but accepted and treated as Indians from India with all the rights and privileges and honours that we should have?

dear nicky confesses

dear nicky confesses

Yesterday, out of the blue, my editor tells me that I have been selected to write the next blog. So I asked, who selected me? That’s when she told me that all the writers on Beyond Sindh Magazine had to do one and it was mentioned in the email she had sent a while ago. Hahaha I never read her emails! Okay, I am going to get fired for saying that.

Anyway, I have never really written a blog before. I pondered for a moment and decided this would actually be kind of fun. I love talking about me and I love it when people are actually forced to listen.
Title of my first Blog: I am always right and you are always wrong. YES YOU!

Okay, so I am sure all of you have heard about me or read what I write for the magazine. For those who have not, I am the boss of Rachana. Hahaha okay, okay, that’s a joke Rach, don’t kick my butt. Anyway, I am the agony uncle. Do not be fooled for a second thinking I am 40 years old and have experienced life to the fullest or anything of that sort that I’m entitled to call myself uncle Nicky. I am actually just 28 years old and I am always right. I may not have experienced it all but once I come to a conclusion; there are no two ways about it. Once again I am always right. Let that sink in for a moment. Now deal with it.

I am not usually as bad as I make myself sound. I am actually a very nice guy. I am funny, charming, well-spoken; I work hard, play hard, am adventurous as hell, am a good friend and I watch out for my loved ones. I speak to my family regularly, tell my dad, mom, brother and sister that I love them. I am God-fearing and a romantic; I open doors for women and always get up when a lady walks in the room. In general I am awesome. And being Sindhi just adds to that.

But, I do not know what happens to me once I start writing. This totally different side of me comes out. This side that reminds me of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The writer in me is my Mr. Hyde. Normally when you meet me, I am just Nicky but when I start writing I turn into Uncle Nicky and the Sindhi side of me comes out. I turn into one of those uncles you meet at parties who will give you advice whether or not you want it. And there is no way he can be wrong. I only wish I could swear the way they do, man. Maya putta, hahaha. One of the reasons I am so proud to be Sindhi is because of the way we swear. I’ve traveled far and wide and no other race compares to how vulgar we sound when we swear. Normally people take that in a negative manner but we should be proud that we are Number 1 in this aspect as well. We are the masters of all trades. Whatever we do, we do it well. Okay, so getting back to Uncle Nicky – I do know that you all love me and for all my fans out there, you are demented for liking what I do. Naaaah, I am just kidding. I think we all should live our life with a little bit of humour. Everyone has problems but it’s not what we are going through but how we deal with it that counts at the end of the day. I believe in God in a big way and like this friend of mine once said: ‘He has brought you to this and He shall bring you through this’. Thanks for tuning in and hope you guys enjoyed my first blog.

Playing Dress-Up

Playing Dress-Up

As the theme of the current issue is women in business, I’d like to reflect on the last 4 months of opening and running a ladies boutique store. First and foremost, you can’t depend on anyone to run your business as best as you can. Although a very basic rule, it takes some time to accept this mentally and emotionally.

Starting your own anything requires a deep passion of pursuit. Without that, you most definitively will fall in debt and more importantly, out of love with your business. Dealing with budgets, targets, and money in general felt as if I was taking a rough towel and rubbing it against my skin. But gradually, money began to put the business in perspective and in some ways my personal life as well. Hard-earned income is different than incomes that don’t require much of you. I used to teach English at a Japanese school and although teaching is one of the most challenging jobs, teaching your first language in a poorly implemented program is not very rewarding. I received an attractive salary but quite honestly, it didn’t teach me anything and I had no real value for it. Now, I nearly want to cry every time someone purchases something at the store. Little do they know the hours spent on traveling, selecting and displaying those fabulous heels.

One of the most important lessons I have learned in running my own business is to never dwell on a problem but move immediately to solving it. I find myself less affected by bad news, so much so that I recently told a friend that there is no such thing as bad news; only news and good news. I occasionally wonder if I have become less sensitive than I used to be and if that makes me less of a woman. But I recently put on the animated film ‘Land Before Time’ (Part 1) and still cried when Little Foot lost his mother. I think that counts for something.

The difficulty I have is finding the right people that share the same passion for what I do. Sales staff come and go and for someone as personal as me, it is challenging to deal with the ins and outs of relationships, even if they are your subordinates. It is a challenge to keep trusting yourself, believing that the decision you made by choosing Riesling for your logo font was right, that the items displayed at the front are coordinated, that you’ll find another salesgirl when this one leaves. But it’s a challenge I passionately accept because when I dress up a woman in the perfect dress, I know she’ll have a great story to tell behind it.