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The Indian Dowry

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While I was working for the New Indian Express last summer, I interviewed the author Shiv Kumar Thakur. His first fiction novel, Price Tag on Love is about the dowry system in India, how it is still alive today and why it does not work. Kumar Thakur is an engineering graduate from Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur and has since worked in the IT industry. However, his passionate opposition to the dowry system and racial discrimination led him to write Price Tag On Love, to make other people more aware of the problems dowries cause to everyone involved.

Kumar Thakur recently posted an article that was published in the Times of India, about a woman who was forced to give one of her kidneys to her husband as a dowry and subsequently committed suicide. Due to these kind of cases, more people should be made aware of dowries that are anchored in Indian society and the fact that something needs to change.

Learn more about Kumar Thakur’s novel by clicking here.

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Student Band Competition

Over the past five weeks, the i’s student brand ambassadors have held charity gigs at campuses nationwide, to raise money for the i Elephant Appeal. Each band that played submitted a song for consideration in this competition, and we have shortlisted the top five below.

The act with the highest number of votes at 5pm on Thursday 1 May 2014, will win an 8 hour recording session at Bowerman Studios.

Watch the videos of the bands and cast your vote by clicking here.

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One of the shortlisted bands

International Work Experience Bursary Information

Ciara Cohen-Ennis (BA Drama / English Literature, 1st year)

International work experience bursary winner working as a journalism intern with New Indian Express

Ciara’s role

Ciara worked for a month and a half for the Indulge Magazine at the New Indian Express newspaper in Bangalore. Her duties included conducting interviews and writing articles and reviews for the paper, as well as proofreading and editing. Published weekly, Ciara’s articles appeared in print virtually every week. Other tasks she was assigned by her editor included contributing to fashion it-lists, society pages, film, restaurant and food reviews. She was also given the autonomy to provide her own suggestions for articles or features in the magazine. This included working on a Home and Style page, for which she interviewed the owner of a garden boutique. Examples of Ciara’s published work include The whole nine yards, an article about a new independent shopping initiative.

Ciara Cohen-Ennis

Ciara enjoyed her internship immensely, noting that, “I loved interviewing locals for the society pages. It was really interesting to get out of the office and meet people, learn about their businesses and projects and then get to write about them and see the articles published. I got to meet the former editor of the Hindustan Times newspaper, Samar Halarnkar, who is also a father, cook and now published author. Other people I have interviewed include Nina Bual, who started a group called I Love Indiranagar, which involved nine businesses such as a bakery, gardening shop, spa, restaurant, music venue, etc. The businesses started a rapid loyalty scheme for customers to gain rewards from their shopping. I got to meet all of the owners and learn a bit about their lives and how they came about starting their businesses and got to know each other. All of their products were original and many had one-off, unique items. It was really interesting to hear their stories and see how their work developed.” However, it took a little time for her to adjust her style to that of the paper, “I had to rewrite some articles two or three times to make sure that they were fitting with the rest of the magazine. The editor wanted my writing to be extremely descriptive and full of colour so that the reader would get a sense of the place or person that I was writing about. Having only written for the Birmingham Tab and the university newspaper, Redbrick, previously, my work would hardly be edited or altered, so it was interesting to see how a professional editor would view my work and ask me to change it.”

Skills learned

Skills that Ciara developed during her placement included interviewing, writing and proofing. She also feels that, “my general writing style has also improved, as I am typing up articles on a daily basis and learning from others who work at the paper.” Whilst these will assist Ciara in her career goal to become a journalist, her work during the summer has also helped her to identify that, “I would also like to shadow a journalist and keep getting experiences by writing for local papers in the UK as well as at university and abroad. I think it may be a good idea to also do an MA in journalism so that I can further my knowledge, skills and experience… It is very important for me, now, to get work at a paper or magazine in the UK, so that I can understand how journalism works in my own country more, as well as in India. I have also started a blog while I’ve been in India and plan to keep this up when I return to the UK, so my work is always being published and companies are able to observe my writing and experiences.”

Employer’s thoughts

Ciara made a very positive impression on her hosts at the New Indian Express, who observed, “Ciara was extremely versed and comfortable in her position with our company. She showed a strong understanding of journalism and writing with an emphasis on lifestyle features. She was capable of completing stories well before the deadline, testament that she works well under pressure without compromising on quality. She was productive, pleasant and positive to work with, and her commitment towards the paper surpassed my expectation of an intern. She is a fine asset, a wonderful co-worker and she is welcome back any time she likes.”

Posted on Friday 25th October 2013

Sickness, Travel and Work

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I’ve been pretty ill with possibly a mild version of dengue fever, which is caused by mosquitoes, last week, so I missed a fair bit of work and slept practically all day, every day! Before that, the deputy editor of Indulge in Bangalore, Aakanksha, was diagnosed with dengue, so it’s been a somewhat stressful in the office trying to get all our articles in with people being ill. Luckily, we’re both back in work now and I have to say, I really missed it. My plans to visit Hampi and Kerala also fell through because of this, unfortunately. It seems like I’ll have to come back to India another time to do more sightseeing.

When Aakanksha was out of the office one morning, only Phil, another intern, and I were in. A PR team from Nickelodeon were due to visit with Shaun the Sheep and we were a little unsure what to make of the whole thing. We posed for a few photos with a man in a costume and then left…

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Phil and I also got to go back to the Mercure to do a review of a Chinese Food Festival. It was an all you can eat buffet, which was amazing. We’ve done a few other food reviews recently, one was a Lebanese restaurant called Byblos on 100 Feet Road and another was a Thai place on Brigade Road that I went to with two new interns, Yasmin and Claire. The food was great, minus the weird ice and jelly dessert. There’s almost a totally new group of interns now since I arrived and tomorrow I’ll have to say goodbye to the first ones I met.

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Claire and I have been working together on a Home & Design gardening page recently. We’ve been to the annual Lalbagh Flower Show, which was extremely busy and full of stalls and beautiful displays. We also interviewed the owner of Sunshine’s Garden Boutique, who is an expert in Bonsai trees and also teaches workshops. She was really kind and even gave us a goody bag with a notepad, pen and candle holder in.

Last weekend, Claire, Yasmin and I went to dinner in a lovely Greek restaurant called On the Edge on the 13th floor of the Barton Centre on MG Road. We were meeting a journalist, Mark Austin, who found Yasmin on twitter and teaches on the route to Mysore in a multimedia and journalism college. It turns out that he also lived and worked in Japan for many years, though he grew up in Edinburgh.

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On Friday, a group of us went to an expat pool party at the Chancery Pavilion. I decided not to bring my bikini, as I’d been ill and wasn’t drinking. I also didn’t really think that anyone would get into the pool. However, at one point in the night, everyone seemed to get pushed in, in their clothes! Luckily, I managed to avoid that and spent most of the night dancing and at the buffet with some of the others. It was still a really fun night, the expat parties that people throw here are definitely extravagant.

This morning, Claire and I went to a rock climbing centre on Residency Road. The people that worked there were really friendly and happy to answer our questions. There was also a young girl there who had won lots of competitions in climbing, so we got to see her scaling the walls before having a go ourselves. We’re about to head off to interview another woman now, called Arundhati Ghosh. She’s the Executive Director of the India Foundation for the Arts and has done loads of fundraising for the arts, as well as being trained as a classical dancer and a poet. I’m looking forward to meeting her before she makes her way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I sadly don’t have time to go to this summer.

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I’ve left the most exciting news till last… This week, Claire, Yasmin and I are going travelling up North! We’ve booked flights from Bangalore to Delhi and from there, we’re getting a bus to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then to Jaipur for an elephant safari, to the desert for camel rides in Jaisalmer before going back to Delhi to see the Red Fort and some of the bazaars. We’re doing all this from Thursday to Monday, which is pretty insane and we’ll probably be exhausted the whole time, but I’m still looking forward to it immensely.

Happy Independence Day!

Interviews, Reviews and Getting Lost

On Thursday I had my first day of work. After flicking through copies of the New Indian Express’ magazine, Indulge, I met the boss, Jackie and some of my colleagues.

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Jackie quickly gave me three people to research and interview, one was a journalist turned chef, one was the director of a whisky advisory firm, and the third, a woman who started a business called Flower Box. On Friday at 11am I was due to meet and interview Sandeep Arora, who owned Spiritual Luxury Living, the whisky firm.  I asked Philip, another intern, to come with me, slightly worried that I may be asked to try some whisky, so soon after being ill. We were told that the place to meet Sandeep was nearby, so we got a rickshaw at 10:40am.

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Unfortunately, it turns out that most rickshaw drivers have no idea where anything is, and surprisingly, neither do we or the majority of the locals who we asked for directions. Our search for number 1 Residency Road took an hour of walking after the rickshaw ride and even then we couldn’t find it. By that time, I had my boss on the phone crying ‘Oh, Lord!’ and Sandeep postponed the interview, as he’d been waiting an hour. Philip and I decided to go into a shopping centre to see if we could pick up any wifi to go on Google Maps (and ensure not getting horribly lost on the way to the next interview!) The KFC at the shopping centre did not have any wifi, but we treated ourselves to chips and a milkshake after the sweaty ordeal we went through of power walking across the never-ending streets of Bangalore.  Luckily, the next rickshaw driver we met was more competent and dropped us very near the Flower Box store. Megha Arya, the owner, was also able to give us clear directions on the phone. I was shocked at how quickly we found the store, arriving right on time at 1pm. Her shop was absolutely beautiful and smelled amazing, (in case you didn’t guess – she’s a flower designer). She offered us green tea and cupcakes as we came in, which we left over from her wedding anniversary the day before. Megha and her staff were really kind and welcoming and happy to answer all our questions. She had trained and mastered in flower design in Japan, Singapore and Bangkok, started her own business and has a family. Megha has already featured in Elle and Vogue, as one of five florists in India. It’s amazing to be able to meet these kinds of people in my first week of being an intern here. Megha was all about nature and spiritual life, moving away from artificial foods and clothing, etc.

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That evening, Philip went to a restaurant with one of our colleagues to review the food. We have some incredible opportunities writing for the Indulge magazine, reviewing concerts, plays, restaurants and interviewing people. Philip also had a phone interview with an American actor who was in Chocolat. Fashion week is going on next week, so I’m hoping to get pretty involved with that as well, and some shoots and interviews have already started.

Some of the other interns have gone to a safari park this weekend, but I decided to stay in Bangalore, having not been too well. I’m planning to go to some of the markets with Haley tomorrow. She’s a photography intern and is doing some filming of the markets in Bangalore as an additional project while she’s here.