Sunday, August 1, 2021

Interviews

What is it like to be a Photographer in India? – Interview with Tina Dehlal

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As the Corona Virus has shut down the world, many of us have found solace in various Arts and Entertainment forms, like Visual Arts, Films and Movies, Music and Photography. I had the chance to speak to Tina Dehlal, a Mumbai-based fashion and celebrity photographer. Equipped with education in Photography from the Falmouth College of Art and the UK and London College of Printing, UK. Tina is a renowned figure in the photography industry. Having pictured the likes of Cindy Crawford, Jean-Paul Gautier, Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Jackie Shroff, to name a few. Her work has been featured in Verve, Elle, Harpers Bazaar, Bride Today, Cosmopolitan, Femina, Filmfare, Hello, L’offial, Stardust, The New York Times, The Financial Times (Milan). Tina explained that photography is her chosen medium because it “can capture all the lighting, the concepts etc”

Tina explained that “I started writing at a very young age, maybe around the age of 11, my writing had a very visual aspect to it. I was to draw, sketch a lot too, the one thing I realized while drawing was that if you gave me something to draw I could copy it really well, but I couldn’t be original in my sketches, my writing was completely original but it was extremely visual, that’s what made me realize that I actually needed a visual form to capture my imagination, so I figured I needed a medium where I could capture all the lighting, the concepts etc.”

“I started with photography hoping to jump to film making eventually, but I got so stuck with photography I never made the jump to film making. Though I would say that would have been my true love and calling.”

Image by Tina Dehlal
Image by Tina Dehlal

Like it is for Tina, photography is a loved medium amongst all sorts of people because it has the ability to capture a moment and make it a memory, for us to look back on, happily. 

Arts-related fields like Drama, Visual Arts and Photography are not a common stream of work, in India, contrasting the ideal engineer, doctor, lawyer fields. There has been a stereotype attached to pursuing a profession in the Arts, about it not being sustainable, only something that people do as hobbies and not requiring talent and skill. Many students who choose to follow a career in the Arts, receive worried glances from their family and friends. Tina said that “I dropped out of college in the States, where I was supposed to be pursuing a degree in Finance. My parents couldn’t understand why I wanted to become a photographer, especially my mother.” Photography is an art form with many sub-categories, but to many, it is a single-surfaced, and one-streamed. Tina shared that “For her (Tina’s Mother)  at that point being a photographer meant On-set photographer or a wedding photographer, which weren’t the ideal professions one wanted for their kids, she like most moms of that generation harboured dreams of me being a doctor, engineer.” Tina reasoned with her parents saying that “if I had to study finance, it would be a waste of their money as eventually, I would land up in an art stream after paying for 4 years of tuition and living expenses in the States.”

Soon, Tina began her journey as a photographer. But it wasn’t easy and took months and months of dedication and consistency to establish herself in the booming photography industry. Tina reflects on that period of her life, between finishing college in the UK and getting work immediately, but the long time between shoots and payment created a burden. “Initially as I came back from college from the UK, I was trying to set up on my own, I had no funding, and at that point, we didn’t get paid for months.”

I was primarily a fashion editorial photographer, magazines didn’t pay us for months on end and designers wanted us to shoot for free, luckily processing labs gave us some leeway to the way our bills. And then buying equipment etc. I remember being broke constantly for the first few years.” Tina also spoke about her distinctive, edgy style of photography that was too much for advertising but fashion loved it, and how that hindered her from getting work. Later, Tina would get her first big break because of her edgy style.  “Then it was my work being too edgy for the market at that point, that was also the reason I got work, I remember getting a cover and editorial shoot very early on with Elle because Anaita Shroff Adajania, then at Elle like my edgy style.”

The Photography industry has been largely impacted by COVID-19 just like many other industries. Without functioning magazines to shoot for and models and designers to shoot, Tina, like many others, has taken this time for herself and learned to hone new skills. She says that “I have done nothing with photography this lockdown. I’ve taken this opportunity to try and hone my skills at another love, writing. And the one thing that couldn’t agree with is that everyone tries and learn something during the lockdown, as most people have had their hands so full, even though they’ve been at home, they really had the time. The one thing I would advise is to take some time for yourself, this has been a great opportunity for people to be away from the mad traffic and work deadlines. Take whatever little time you have and reflect and reconnect with yourself…ME TIME.”

Lastly, for many young creatives who are looking to establish themselves like Tina so successfully did, Tina shares that “One, learn the craft. Learn to shoot in manual. Too many aspiring photographers, don’t know how to use the camera, the technicalities, they shoot on auto modes.

It’s only once you get your basics in place will you be able to manipulate the functions to create beautiful images. Study, keep learning… keep looking at work by other photographers I used to devour magazines I could get my hands on and when you find an image you like, try and break it down in your head… try and work out the setting, light placements etc.” Tina also has a lot of appreciation for cinematographers saying that “To me, movies, music videos and the way the Cinematographers light shots is truly inspiring.”

Photography has the power to convey messages that thousands of words could not, and Tina has been on a journey where she has studied and struggled to pursue photography and if Tina’s journey could teach everyone one thing, it is to be resilient and strong. 

THE REVOLUTIONARY – An exclusive interview with an anonymous exclusive Egyptian visionary

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Arthur F. Beaugeard

The Ascent News has managed to nab an exclusive interview with a reclusive Egyptian visionary who is now studying veterinary medicine on America’s West Coast. Although reluctant at first, saying that “he doesn’t do interviews,” he agreed to answer the questions anonymously.

As an active participant in the Egyptian Revolution,  he says that “My main part was an on-site triaging center that we put together to take care of various injuries that protesters had that resulted from tear gas, cartridge shots, bullets, and being trampled by mobs. We provided first aid and transportation to the nearest hospital. I ended up spending all my time either helping with first aid at our triaging center or helping the patients we transported to the hospital who were being treated for trauma.” He once had to pretend that twelve dead people were alive and he transported them to the hospital, because “the friends and family members were about to make the very reckless decision of attacking an army tank which could have escalated into hundreds of deaths. We transported the dead protesters and waited for the situation to de-escalate before pronouncing them dead.”

He says that “Being an atheist in Egypt is like being an atheist anywhere else. You live your life just believing what you believe and when it’s time for Sunday prayer, you just don’t go!” It doesn’t register with people as a belief with people but as a lack of faith in their beliefs. “People register it as me being in a phase of being a bad Christian and say they are praying for me to come back to being a good Christian.” Although he and a range of liberal Christians, Muslims, and Atheists from a variety of backgrounds ran a journal publicizing secular ideas, he says that “My primary objective was not to promote my beliefs but it was important to me to contradict people making their beliefs into laws and the theocracy in Egypt.”

He was raised in the Coptic faith, the followers of which make up 10% of the Egyptian population. He generously explained that “Coptic Christianity dates back to one of Jesus’s disciples, Mark, and one of the first places he visited was Egypt. At that time, Egypt was part of the Roman Empire and preaching Christianity was prohibited. The first church started in Egypt in someone’s house and grew out of Alexandria. Part of their message was to fight against the injustice of the Roman Empire. The Coptic church is considered one of the oldest churches on Earth.” Unfortunately, “Like any minority in a country that identifies itself” in a Muslim nation-state, Coptics have had to fight against discrimination, but “They have never failed to reach to the top whenever bias was not a factor. So they succeed in situations where applications are anonymous and interviews are not part of it. That’s why there are many Coptic lawyers and doctors. One of the richest families listed in Forbes is Coptic Egyptian (Sawiris family).”

After his multitude of adventures, he decided to live the American dream by coming to its shores and pursuing an education in medicine, but he says that

“My story is not a special story. It’s similar to every immigrant who comes here for opportunity and growth fleeing from an oppressed, less developed society. Why did I choose America when the rest of the world is likely to welcome someone with my credentials? I felt that America has boundless opportunities that match my ambitions.” He still misses the “memories/friends I made growing up in Egypt and the family I left behind.”

Although his values are always changing, he says that “One value I have always stuck to and I think I got it from my practice and that is ‘First, do no harm.’ It pertains to my work but I also apply it broadly to my life.” He also cautions us: “’Don’t trust politicians,’ ‘Always check people with authority’ and “Blame the religion, not the people.” That’s what I live by and that’s pretty much it.”

The Ascent extends their deepest thanks to this titan of history for sharing a bit of his vast wealth of knowledge. We only hope that our readers do no harm and distrust authority.

“Vegan Overnight” – An interview-based article of an 18-year-old Malaysian vegan!

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Pritha Nag

Seven months ago I went to Auroville, the sustainable town of India, and that trip changed my outlook towards my diet, forever. The trip was an amazing experience, not only for seeing how a sustainable town runs, but I met so many different animals! In particular, I petted a cow, after that my heart broke knowing that these animals get killed for people’s satisfaction in eating them. So after that trip I made myself a promise to go pescatarian (no meat, but seafood). I was a huge meat eater probably the biggest in my family, but after that trip, I didn’t ever want to eat meat again. My goal is to go vegetarian one day or even vegan, many may argue that it can be hard to do but Mee Sha, an 18-year-old Malaysian food blogger thinks differently saying “Lots of people have the all or nothing mentality, but it is really important to start small and build up from it so it is not overwhelming”

Mee Sha is an 18-year-old college student that is using her platform to advocate for veganism and helping to debunk myths surrounding veganism, in showing that vegan food can be delicious! Mee Sha runs the Instagram account “myplantifulcooking” (instagram.com/myplantifulcooking/) that shows delicious and easy vegan foods to eat, along with step by step directions to achieve delicious vegan food! Mee Sha says “I just provide my audience with really easy vegan recipes to make, and indirectly encourage them to incorporate more plant-based meals into their life.” Many people are put off meat when learning “about how animals are treated and raised inhumanely in agriculture settings” and can instantly be put off meat, with Mee Sha saying “I was really put off by it and literally went vegan overnight!”

“Plant-based diets are too expensive!”, “Plant-based diets are too hard!”. These are common excuses heard around when people are asked why they don’t go vegan, or why they don’t try to incorporate it into life. With living in the 21st century, Mee Sha decided that the best way to spread the word that vegan cooking can be easy and delicious was her Instagram and her blog (https://www.myplantifulcooking.com/) filled with simple and delicious cooks! Mee Sha is a perfect example of also showing that being vegan can be fun and enjoyable by “Veganising some of my childhood favourite dishes.” And that vegan cooking is something that naturally comes to her because she usually just have some ideas popped up randomly during the day and I immediately jot them down”. In Mee Sha’s blog she “always put convenience at top priority” hence why she includes easy recipes that take little time to make, and most of her cooking “only use basic cooking techniques, and more oftentimes under 10 ingredients.” Mee Sha is a perfect example of using your platform to advocate for important things. 

Veganism has had a recent rise, with the number of US consumers that identify as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between the years 2014 and 2017 veganism has seen a definite increase. With veganism becoming a new concept for many, not many people have managed to fully wrap their heads around veganism. With Mee Sha stating on her blog “vegan teenager living in the not so vegan-friendly Malaysia. It is getting better these days, but often vegan food can be hard to find, especially in rural areas.” This is primarily one of the reasons as to why Mee Sha cooks at home so much, and why she shares her ideas. So people living in less vegan-friendly communities can find fun vegan food that “are not just salads”. As a vegan in the “not so vegan-friendly Malaysia” Mee Sha says that she does face a couple of challenges with eating out with friends and family “as the concept of veganism is still quite new in Malaysia. It can be hard to find good vegan options.” As with anything though, there are pros and cons, but we can do what we can to be a little more open to veganism and have a better mindset to help make it more of a better-understood concept. 

Veganism has a different definition for everyone. We may think that veganism is avoiding using any animal consumed products, or maybe trying to help us out with the climate crisis. But none of us should be scared of turning vegan, because it may seem big at first but

“it is really important to start small and build up from it so it is not overwhelming.” We should be more open to veganism because “As we are the minority in this society, it is close to impossible to be a perfect vegan. We should just do the best that we can.” 

Mee Sha’s amazing blog: https://www.myplantifulcooking.com/

Mee Sha’s wonderful Instagram: instagram.com/myplantifulcooking/

Stepping into the COVID Ward: Dr Amey Kamdar (a medical intern)

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

Aahana Khemani

New to the medical world, Dr. Amey Kamdar started his career right in the middle of a global pandemic. He shares his roller-coaster experience as a doctor in the Covid ward. The ups and the downs, the joys and the tears, the relief and the pain. 

He started his venture during February, 2020 in the K. J. Somaiya Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre. “I decided to be a doctor because I was interested in medicine as well as had a family background in medicine.” Dr. Amey Kamdar says. Little did he know, in within 25 days, he would be exposed to treating patients consumed by a deadly virus. “It was nothing compared to what we had imagined.” His part in this abhorrent pandemic was both, of a medical researcher as well as a “physical” doctor. Running back and forth, between two tedious but encouraging roles, he was motivated by the emotional moments between the patients and their families.

“In the beginning, I was always paranoid. I always had an OCD for touching dirty surfaces. So, when I started, I was a maniac, considering my job! Additionally, the most frustrating part was that we knew so little about Covid!” So many questions, but very few answers!

“But, as time passed, I became more comfortable. First, I used to be more concerned about myself than my patients… but, again, as time passed, the situation slowly turned the other way. It’s a great feeling! The other day, an 86 year old lady came in. We weren’t sure if she was going to make it… but, when we let her talk to her relatives, that moment, that feeling! It was just touchingly…” indescribable! Furthermore, what kept me stimulated was when my dad said ‘you’re still young, why don’t you treat this like an adventure?’” 

“The overall experience? Well… none of us knew how this was going to go. So, initially, it was a bit chaotic. But then we all worked together and figured it out. This whole experience taught us how to work together and find a solution! It also taught me how to be more streetsmart.”  

Coming to one of the most “wanted” questions by a lot of people, ‘how do we avoid getting Covid 19?’ Make sure you sanitize or wash your hands regularly, wear masks, avoid touching your face. A word of medical wisdom from Dr. Amey Kamdar, “The older you are, the more risk you have of catching the virus.” 

Working in the Covid Ward is definitely challenging. But, life’s all about embracing the difficulties, and working around them. A big thank you to Dr. Amey Kamdar for answering all of these burning questions! You can find his social media links down below! 

Instagram

Facebook

The Future of Food and Dining in a Post COVID-19 Mumbai with Gauri Devidayal

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Samvita Amladi

“It’s really about how you can blend the safety and hygiene aspect that is going to be on everyone’s mind with the idea of hospitality.” – Gauri Devidayal

As the co-owner of The Table, Magazine Street Kitchen, Magazine Street Bread Co. The Table Farm, The Dining Table and Iktara, Gauri Devidayal has extensive knowledge of how restaurants work in Mumbai. The Table’s philosophy is a simple but refined one. She says “What drove us was the idea of creating a great place with great food that we would want to go to every day. The biggest thing has been consistency and quality.” She explains that she wanted to create a sort of Restaurant Utopia, inspired by her experience in California, which is very ingredient-driven and cuisine agnostic. “Having that attention to detail, to the little things that really matter to you when you go out to dine and you may not notice, but, make an impact.” 

How is COVID-19 influencing the sourcing of ingredients, both locally sourced and importing and exporting, and will this take a toll on the fine dining industry?

The Table prides itself on quality ingredients- farm to table, so is your restaurant now facing any restrictions when it comes to the varieties of ingredients? “We’ve resumed delivery, but it’s with a very limited menu. If it’s something that’s imported and expensive, when restaurants resume business, for example, if the government restricts how many people you’re allowed to [serve], then you might try to think about it smartly and not get an expensive ingredient which has a low shelf-life and a low demand for it which ends up going to waste. So I think that there’s going to be what we call smart menu engineering that needs to be done, to keep in mind footfalls, cost of ingredients or sourcing ingredients, et cetera. So it’s bound to affect what the [restaurant] industry puts on its menu. I think that the point is that chefs will be smarter about how they plan their menus and fine dining is, about what you do with the ingredients, as opposed to what ingredients we’re using. So I don’t think it’s going to affect fine dining per se. I think it’s definitely going to affect menu engineering. Our menu is very ingredient-driven, there is a lot of seasonality in the menu and therefore changes with availability. When we print our menu each day, it only has what’s available that day. Because it’s really annoying if you spend five minutes, going through the menu and finally decide what you want and it’s not available.”

Some things we’ll be missing out on.

“The whole idea of coming to a restaurant for me is social engagement. The human element has been so important to our brand. So people come there because they know that someone’s going to take care of them. The whole point is that you can’t do away with the human element. I’d rather be put down as environmentally unfriendly, but I’d rather have a menu that is a physical menu that you can see and read, instead of looking at your phone every 15 minutes to decide what you want to order. It just takes away from the experience for me.” She explains.

The loss of taste, a symptom that might stay even after full recovery from COVID-19.

“Of course, that’s very unfortunate and it has bigger implications than just for the restaurant industry because that’s something that affects someone’s eating habits generally, regardless of restaurants or at home. I think that, as far as your questions concern, whether there can be more to food than the flavour essentially. I’m a staunch believer [that] flavour comes first. My food philosophy has always been to keep it simple and make it really flavorful because that’s what people crave at the end of the day. They’re not coming to be surprised with a circus every time, they’re coming to enjoy a great meal. When you plate a dish of food it’s not just about the taste. So presentation and textures, are all important when it comes to plating a dish, but, the flavour is king for me. I still believe that you can’t cover up sort of a substandard flavour with gimmicks.”

Follow-up question: “Yes. But I was also thinking about, instead of maybe taste, giving the person that idea of what they’re eating by, the sound, because sometimes, in non-vegetarian foods, especially there is that crackle of the skin on fried fish or even on pork, there’s a caramelized skin. So I was wondering where that would come into play and if it could be one of the things that could make up for the loss of taste. I feel like in restaurants that could be utilized instead of just concentrating on flavour.”  

Gauri answered: “I feel that it’s very hard for a chef to create, a menu that isn’t focused on flavour but focused on these other sorts of extraneous factors, which can be there, but, it [flavour] has to still be of primary importance. As a chef, you still want something that you think is composed and complete in all respects and not just factoring in, whether the person can taste or see or hear, right. It’s an expression of your creation and you want it to be done in the best possible form right now, but you don’t create something, keeping that sort of limitation in mind, you create something in the best possible way that you want it to be appreciated.” 

Will we ever go the extra mile again?

I wanted to know whether we would be pickier when it comes to transitioning back to eating out and if we would ever again go the extra mile to find the best tasting, most organic food or if we would just be happier with eating something simpler like home food. She said: “Yes, home food is comfort food, but there’s a limited repertoire of what you can do at home. Sometimes it’s not just about, the taste of home food versus eating out. I don’t think that not going out to eat is going to be a longterm outcome of this situation. It’s a break from your routine. There’s a sort of social bonding that comes with the experience of going out or travelling somewhere with friends or family. So there’s a lot more to it than just the end product, which is the food and I think as restaurant owners, that’s what we strive to create. It’s about an entire experience of, what a restaurant, is made to feel [like]. I think that that’s something that people will always want.”

Talking about immunity and how her restaurant will adapt: 

“When it comes to our restaurant, is that you do you. So it’s the same thing, whether you’re trying to be more healthy or whether you’re binge-eating. But I still feel like, for us, as a brand, it’s important to be very clear to ourselves about what we are offering and what we are doing. Those who resonate with it will come and change their dietary preferences.” she explains.

Food trends with a magnifying glass on immunity, health and wellbeing.

“So even when we’ve come to creating our menus it’s about doing something that you believe in and not because it’s trendy. But having said that, I do think that people are going to be more health-conscious and I mean that’s been a growing focus anyway for the last few years, and I think that it’s only been sort of escalated now with the current scenario. But, if you keep reacting to every trend that’s happening, what is it that your brand actually stands for? It doesn’t mean a seafood restaurant becomes vegetarian because that might be a growing food preference. Yes, I mean, it’s something that we will be conscious of and should be able to offer it without diverting from what [our] food philosophy is to start with. If you can incorporate these things [trends] into your menu, fine. But, not at the cost of changing what your entire brand is.”

I then compared this to not changing yourself or your personality for anyone. I think that we’ll be seeing more health-conscious dishes on the menu. But, we hope that it won’t divert from the authentic vision our favourite restaurants have in mind. She says, “We’re not trying to draw people in because it is an option that is healthier.  If you’re just going with the flow and that kind of a brand doesn’t garner loyalty and a following.” Otherwise, what is the difference between your restaurant and a pop-up 

On delivery apps (Swiggy, Zomato, Scootsy).

I wanted to know what route Gauri had taken to support her restaurant. She says “We were very dependent on these delivery apps for our delivery services. Scootsy shutting down made us create our own delivery platform. The whole sort of disgruntlement with these delivery apps is that they charge very large commissions to restaurants, and it’s not financially viable. So, the restaurants are just moving towards having their own platforms so that they don’t have to pay these commissions. It might be more of a hassle for consumers because each restaurant will have its own platform. But, honestly, that’s what’s financially mobile.” 

Moving her team to board at the restaurant premises.

She explains further “This is so that we didn’t have them [her staff] commuting every day and potentially increasing the risk of exposure.” 

Double packaging for delivery and commercial products.

She says, “There are so many people that your delivery parcel goes through, it’s something that we implemented from the get-go, during the lockdown.”

QR codes, but more for Quick Service Restaurants.

Ms. Devidayal mentioned that the QR codes would work better at quick-service restaurants where people don’t come to socialize, like Mcdonald’s or Starbucks. But, that’s never something that I had thought about before, not being able to socialize with just your friends but also the staff of a restaurant that you frequent. She elaborates “People always have this misunderstanding that restaurants are about food. Hospitality comes from human intervention.” 

Branded masks and gloves with the company logo.

This will likely be a part of a new uniform ensuring safety without the scariness. Servers are meant to be messengers between the customers and the chef. Not people in hazmat suits.

Reminders for servers and chefs every hour to ensure sanitization.

A reminder without the disturbance, for those mainly handling food. This includes sanitizer, glove changes, and mask changes.

What it would mean for a business or restaurant to newly open post lockdown. 

She said “Regardless of whether you’re a new restaurant or you’re something that’s been around 10 years. Your challenge really is about creating quality and then maintaining it consistently. I feel that if you have a quality product, the entire experience, which includes the hospitality part of it, people will come.

End thoughts:

Whatever it may be, we shouldn’t lose sight of our previous experiences with restaurants but rather slightly alter what it means to be a restaurant today with some seriousness. Dining and food should not be something that we should be afraid of, but something that requires some caution and consideration when it comes to sanitization and safety. As Gauri Devidayal has mentioned, we cannot lose sight, and compromise on flavour and quality. 

Sleepless Nights of Sacrifice – Leadership in times of crisis – Dr Neelam Andrade leads the way.

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Tara Hebbar

It is commonly and often said that leaders are not born but made. As COVID-19 tears its way into each of our lives and leaves a lasting impression, it is proving to be a challenging test and an opportunity for leaders. As a Dental Dean and a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Neelam Andrade has led her team to set-up and operate a jumbo COVID care  facility at Nesco, and within just a fortnight. In this global health war, she is on the frontline with only N-95 mask, face shield, PPE, and sanitizer to defend herself with. She and her team have set up this facility in a matter of weeks, with over a 1000 beds, availability of equipment and oxygen and an ICU. In addition to this, Dr Andrade has had to gather a team of doctors, nurses and every other profession, vehicle and equipment piece needed to make this possible. This is no mean feat, and with all the personal risk and sacrifice involved there are many leadership lessons we can all learn from Dr Neelam Andrade and everyone who risks their life in sacrifice for others.

Firstly, with such a huge task and such a short amount of time, she had to work extremely hard and long. She also had to get her team to do so as well. A very important trait every leader should possess, is leading by example.  Dr Andrade has led her team by example through every step and hurdle. With such a daunting task, she gave up on so many of her personal needs such as sleep and comfort.  I’m sure this determination motivated her co-workers and team. It is easy for a leader to hand out the task and not work as hard, but many like Dr Andrade not only work along with their team but often show them the way by working twice as hard. She says,  “ I worked very very hard, almost 12 hours at site and again from home in 4-5 hours, I hardly slept in the initial 15-20 days and took a break only after 25 days of non- stop working.” When a leader showcases this type of work ethic, it tends to be infectious and inspires everyone to do so.  For many initial meetings, there were no designated offices and not even a washroom, something the rest of us take for granted.  “I started with holding meetings with just 7 of us under trees on open grounds, with no office, no washrooms. Slowly as my team increased we got Porta cabins to sit after 10 days and finally an office open premises after 12-14 days.” By being there with them through it all, I’m sure Dr Andrade made it much easier for her team to cope with such conditions. 

Secondly, Dr Andrade is at a position where our entire country is extremely grateful for all the things she has done. Here she exhibits another great quality of leadership, being humble and thankful. Most big leaders, like her, don’t need to be humble. They have so many people thanking them that they can forget to be grateful themselves but that’s not Dr Andrade. Even with so many “fans”, she, like many others, has remained humble and true to herself and is thankful for so many things and people. 

“I am grateful for the administration who had confidence in my capabilities more than I had, for giving me this opportunity, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I received from my close family and I am grateful to my entire team and everyone who is working with me, even the ward boy, the nurse, the multipurpose worker, the ambulance driver, the engineers, architects, interns, pgs, labour staff, technicians, so many the list is endless.” 

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – JK Rowling

This is just another lesson we can take away from Dr Andrade, she is not only grateful for those who are alongside her but those who do the small things and work under her. She has confidence in others and in turn makes them more confident about themselves. This humility expressed by her is something we can all inculcate in our lives. 

Lastly, she set this up, worked and continues working so hard and giving up so much. All of this didn’t give much attention, fame, or any more money. On the other hand she had to work harder than ever and lose out on things that she could’ve easily done in the comfort of her home. Her motivation didn’t include any of the above but her genuine care for patients and as a doctor, her need to help humanity and do her part in helping the world and saving the lives of so many. “I never leave a job incomplete, I was entrusted with this work, I had started a process, the whole team was dependent on me to steer the way. There were so many needy patients, who were waiting for admissions, oxygen, meds, doctors, I had to be on field finding answers and solutions, today everything is so well streamlined that in my absence also it will run. Money is not everything, I was not in this for money, it was a call for duty, care and service.”

In conclusion, leadership lessons and life lessons don’t only come from the CEO’s of big corporations and companies but also people like Dr Neelam Andrade. She has started something that may be smaller than a large company but leaves a much larger impact on the lives of so many. Just by staying at home, wearing a mask and helping out those who don’t have as much privilege, we can not only help frontline workers who risk their lives but do our part in keeping them safe and being kinder ourselves.  I would like to end this by thanking Dr Andrade and everyone like her who save lives and are constantly in the pursuit of helping others. They are the true heroes of this health war and a source of inspiration to us all. They make an enormous and everlasting impact on so many while they continue to have sleepless nights of sacrifice.

Army – An Interview with Himanshu Mitra

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Arav Barmecha

The army is a very important job. There are brave people who join and serve our country. 150,000 volunteer to join the army each year. I have got the insight of Mr. Himanshu Mitra. His motivation to join the Army was when he was schooling in La Martiniere the Ustadz and Officers inspired him.“It was these small interactions which left a lasting impression on me”, He said. 

Mr. Himanshu, faced many challenges serving in the army. There were many adventures, ups and downs to these times but in the end it was for the love of his motherland he would tell himself.

“We in the Army develop lifelong bonds with our peers, seniors and jawans; in fact, it’s a huge family and this can also be one of the reasons for all of us to continue in the Army in spite of all odds.”, He says. 

Joining the Army Mr.Himanshu got to fight for his beloved country and defend it in a selfless manner. He joined the Army to serve his country and protect us at all costs. “ I joined the army to serve my motherland in a dignified manner”, He said. This is a great takeaway for a lot of people who are planning to join the army. 

The army is full of stuff to do, but what is it that soldiers do?  “Job in the Army is simple. To keep our country safe. Mine is no different. I need to keep myself and my team to be trained and fit to respond to my call of duty.”, Mr.Himanshu says

Drops in an Ocean – Interview with Nandita Das

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This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Diya Barmecha

What are we destined to do? What is our worth in this world? What is God’s plan for us?

These questions have haunted us many for years. There is no one right answer, but every once in a while there is an answer that makes us believe that it may be the right one. One such answer was given to me by actor/director Nandita Das. Having been a first-hand activist and visionary to change India. She says, “We are all a drop in the ocean and we have got to be the fullest drop that we can”

India, a country filled with diverse culture has always been fixated on the fact that being fair is being beautiful. From companies to filters the entire country wants to be fair and then be considered beautiful. Nandita Das has always felt that,

“In a country that is largely dark, it is ironic that we should be made to feel less worthy because of an identity that we were just born with.” 

In 2013, Nandita Das was approached  by Woman of Worth to support their campaign “Dark is Beautiful”. Being dark skinned and a successful and loved actor, she became the face of the campaign. She also created a music video called, “India’s Got Colour”. From a  young age she has had to fight and, “escape the prejudice, the comments, the discrimination” Over the years and generations that have passed, the expectations only increase. Everyone gives in to the pressure and does everything in their power to be the prettiest they can be to satisfy the eyes of others. The pressure is not only by the people you work with but also by those who adore you.

“While all the other actors were getting lighter and lighter with every film,” she said, she revamped her campaign and gave multiple interviews and press conferences. She wanted to make a change not only in companies and the new generation of girls who need to get fairer. But they aimed to change the entire expectation of fair is beautiful. Last year, in 2019 she revamped the campaign and called it India’s got colour which celebrates all skin tones. This campaign that UNESCO and held a panel discussion happened in October, 2019 in Delhi. This was a big game-changer for the campaign. Another big change in recent years is led by Chandana Hiran to change “Fair & Lovely’s” name. For more information about that look at Tara Hebbar’s article.  “Even if the name has changed, the product itself has not changed,” she said, “ It is already sparking adequate resistance and debate, which in itself will help move the needle. We have a very long way to go, but every step in the right direction is a small victory of sorts. As a society, it is high time we overcome this deep prejudice”. I agree with her and feel that in a country as rigid as India on its beliefs, any change is a big one. It can definitely grow to change the minds of many, slowly but surely.

Along with colourism in India, Nandita Das did a lot of social advocacy for a lot of issues on social justice such as her most current one on domestic violence in these times of the pandemic. This short film is called, “Listen to Her.” She utilised her time well in the pandemic and set up a helpline for anyone suffering from domestic violence. She looks for things that need to change and makes it happen. She is a perfect advocate for Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see in the World” 

One of her biggest achievements is her movie, Manto. This movie follows the life of a writer Saadat Hasan Manto who is famous for his short stories. She got her inspiration for the movie when she was in college. She said, “I was struck by his simple yet profound narratives. He chronicled the world around him as he saw it, as he felt it, without dilution.” Manto is an author that never got the recognition he deserved, with this movie and a newly released book of his most famous short stories that is surely going to change. While first reading Manto, I have to agree with Ms. Das that “his free spirit; his courage to stand up against orthodoxy of all kinds,” was extremely inspiring. Manto helped her understand her father better and helped her understand a hidden truth about us all. She says, “there is a certain ‘Manto-ness’ in us all – the part that wants to be free-spirited and outspoken” 

With that one line, she has given a name to all the hidden feelings we have. Nandita Das has definitely inspired me and many others by her vigilance and independence. From her short films advocating social justice and her campaigns for color. She has come a long way from a movie actress. The usual job of theirs is to act, pose and promote. She has out of her way to push herself to be something more, something more special. 

 A snippet of her movie Manto was also featured at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in 2017. As she likes to believe, “There is no way to measure one’s Impact” But there is a way to measure success and she has definitely made a name for herself. Being in the public domain, she is using every opportunity to inspire others. The only thing we can do is by the fullest drop we can be and grasp any opportunity to change for the better.

Life in Quarantine : Exclusive Interview with a Shanghai Resident

Image from ABC News

By Arthur Beaugeard

Lu Jing Jiang, AKA Daniel Lu, a 9th-grade resident of a coastal suburb in Shanghai, China, is a part of living history. For months, the deadly Wuhan Coronavirus has spread throughout China, with a death count of 812. 37,252 are infected, 28,942 are possibly infected, 6,188 are severely infected, and only 2,780 have been cured as of February 9th, 2020. The numbers rise each day.

This graph shows the demography of confirmed cases in each Chinese province as of February 9th, 2020. Note that the majority of the cases are centered in the province labeled 湖北 (Hu Bei), which is the province where the city of Wuhan is situated. 

Although he is not at the epicenter of the virus in Wuhan, nor is he living in the more fatal conditions of downtown Shanghai, Daniel informed me people still stay in their homes throughout all hours of the night and day in self-imposed quarantine. The chilly, vacant streets lie empty and on the rare occasions when people cross paths, they avoid each other. Even doctors are getting sick by leaving their eyes unprotected.

He further went on to explain that to re-enter your apartment building after an outing, you needed “a permit, for you to go around”. Permits were issued to all residents of the building and they must be shown to the guards when a resident wants to return home after an outing. They must explain where they were as well as their travel history. Similar checkpoints have been set up on the highway, with the most common question being: “Have you been to Wuhan?” Many cities have banned cars from other provinces to mosey along into their territory. All of these measures are intended to quell the spread of the virus.

Daniel says that “food prices are rising” and that his family is “starting to prepare to ration food.” Pork remains rare “because of the 2019 epidemic,” Daniel remarked in reference to the African Swine flu, another epidemic which ravaged China’s pig populations in 2019. 

His school has been cancelled until March so far, but he says this period may extend later. All of his classes must be done over FaceTime now in a system called “Classin’” in one-hour periods, which he appreciates, saying that it really “condenses” the information.

Nobody he knows has the Wuhan Coronavirus yet, but he thinks that even if they did they would not like to talk about it. Many conspiracy theories run rampant featuring the actions of foreign powers, namely the USA, creating the virus and sending it to China as a form of biological warfare. Daniel thinks that these theories stem from the deep-seated nationalism exhibited by the Chinese people. He does not lend much credence to such theories. “I think the government has handled it well, after all, the World Health Organization praised their response.” Quoth Daniel, who also believes that the domestic media is providing accurate information.

For now, public morale remains high. Daniel remains confident in his own survival. 

How Dare She?

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Ascent Claims no ownership over this image.

by Pritha Nag and Tanvi Mittal

16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg rose to fame when she started going to the Swedish Parliament and holding up posters about climate change during the time a regular child would be going to school. Later on, she had a chance to host a Ted-talk that inspired many. With several opinions surrounding her, Thunberg has been loved and hated around the world. People admired her for her confidence and determination. She is trying to stop climate change and “make a difference”. Over the past two years, she has made several bold statements that have both shocked and awed people. Some include “How dare you?”, “We will never forgive you.” and “The young people are starting to understand your betrayal.” Despite this, she has said a lot of touching things that inspired people and changed their opinion on climate change. 

Greta Thunberg blames the older generations, for causing this mess and having us come to clean it up. We wanted to find out what the generation’s opinion is on Greta Thunberg We asked Gen Z’ers (1995-2015), Millenials (1981-1994) and Gen X’ers (1965-1980). What do they think of her? And “to explain why they are for or against her.

Ms Leslie Bartley who is a millennial had to say: “I think Greta Thunberg is doing a lot for student activism. I also think that one of the reasons that she is so famous is because of her white privilege and I know there are a lot of young women of colour that really want to give knowledge about climate change and other things but are yet looked over.” Thinking about this statement, we thought what would it be like if Thunberg wasn’t white. Does she get treated differently because of her colour? 

We also asked Mr. Neville who is also a millennial. This is what he had to say: “It’s a little hard to be thoughtful and think clearly when your emotions get in the way. Her speech (at the UN) was very emotional, did it hit the right chords? Yes. Could it also cloud judgment, because of her being emotions? Yes.” After thinking this out, Greta Thunberg does have a passion for climate change and wants what’s best for us. But maybe her emotion and passion are clouding her judgment and getting in the way, and that’s what’s putting people off. 

After hearing what millennials had to say, we wanted to hear what our own generation thought. We interviewed Kavya Hebbar of the 7th grade to ask her what she thought. “I think that at first, she started off with a good mind, about doing something good for the environment. But then I think she got a little bit too aggressive.” When asked do you think awareness is enough the Gen Z’er responded with “We definitely need more action.” At the UN when she said “How dare you”, that just came out a little bit off to me.” 

We then decided to hear what the generation being blamed for this crisis had to say. We had an anonymous Gen X’er tell us what they thought: “I think she should be in school now instead of being an activist. because there’s always a better time and place to do it.”  When asked: How do you feel about Thunberg blaming your generation? Our anonymous X’er had a bold statement to say: “I think it’s rubbish. I just think it’s rubbish. Entirely blaming our generation is not right. Over the years it’s been happening, and you just need to lay your blame on somebody, so I guess we are being made this cape coat. But I think everybody has a hand in it and blaming us, is it going to get you any solutions. No.” When we compared the statements of the different generation we noticed all of them were a little put off by Thunberg. We observed people noticed her flaws, but also the good parts, but maybe the reason she is so hated is that she’s not saying it in the right way. 

“She is not very balanced in what she is doing. Although the climate change issue is very important, she has to realize that with technology and development comes certain negative things as well and if you want the good things, you have to be prepared for the bad things as well,” says Shruti Mittal, a Gen Xer. She also says that “The fact that she is spreading awareness is amazing but it needs to be followed up with something more. You can’t tell the world about climate change and then do nothing about it. It’s very well to stand up and make some noise, but then you need to have some solutions in mind.” When we asked her about how she feels about Thunberg blaming Gen X’ers, this is what she had to say.”Our generation was at a turning point for very big technological advancements. It involved the coming of the internet which revolutionized the world in an in a big way.” she also says, “Its not anyone’s fault and it’s a phase of life. If a whole new revolutionary change happens in another generation, you can’t start blaming them.” 

 When asked: How do you feel about Thunberg blaming your generation? Our anonymous X’er had a bold statement to say: “I think it’s rubbish. I just think it’s rubbish. Entirely blaming our generation is not right. Over the years it’s been happening, and you just need to lay your blame on somebody, so I guess we are being made this cape coat. But I think everybody has a hand in it and blaming us, is it going to get you any solutions. No.” When we compared the statements of the different generation we noticed all of them were a little put off by Thunberg. We observed people noticed her flaws, but also the good parts, but maybe the reason she is so hated is that she’s not saying it in the right way. 

It’s all of our faults. We’ve all had an impact on climate change, and the climate crisis. But now what we can do is come together, and work towards helping our world. Thunberg is doing what so many at her age can only dream off, but maybe if she said it in the right tone, and had evidence and reasoning to back up her claims, she wouldn’t be scrutinized in the public eye so much. Thunberg needs to take this criticism and work towards it because in the end all of us need to make an impact, not just one person. Blaming a generation without the evidence is going to set people off, Thunberg needs to back everything up, but also realise that we are living in the present, not in the past, and that awareness just isn’t enough. 

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