Shobha's Blog - Open Sesame
How the year has flown! I guess that’s because we have been super busy with exciting happenings. Besides winning new clients and expanding our readership base through a new initiative – the launch of our listings brochure “FindAll Singapore” - we also found ourselves in the limelight. There was a whole episode on our magazine and team in a TV show on Asian Entrepreneurs on Channel News Asia. It was a proud moment for me to see my team facing the cameras with so much confidence, totally unfazed by the attention, proving, not for the first time, what a professional lot they are. And as the year drew to a close, I was given the singular honour by the government of my home state Sikkim to be a keynote speaker at the KanchanPanda Startup Festival, the first of its kind for Northeast India. I was humbled to find myself as a speaker along with some of India’s leading entrepreneurs, but the icing on the cake for me was meeting and interacting with one of the world’s most iconic innovators – Sonam Wangchuk of Ladakh who is creating a revolution in education. Despite his hectic schedule, he spent time talking to me about his work and vision.
Another event that is keeping us on our toes is the second Asian Women Writers Festival (AWWF). Launched by us in 2016, the AWWF is the only platform in the world dedicated to Asian women writers in English, so it is a landmark event in the literary calendar for this region and, we hope, for the rest of the world in time to come. Writers from China, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines will be on our panel at the two-day event which will be held at the Art House in Singapore on January 19 and 20. Women writers just don’t seem to get adequate publicity in any country and even less so in this region. The AWWF is our sincere bid to remedy this. Besides its avowed aim to promote Asian women writers writing in English, the festival also hopes to vitalise the local publishing industry.
Our correspondent from Pakistan (yes we have a big Pakistani following) Sabyn Javeri, author of Nobody Killed Her, writes about an experience all too common for women writers: being judged for their looks rather than for their writing. “Since when does what we look like have anything to do with how we write?” she asks. “I have yet to read a review of a male author’s work that discusses his appearance in relation to his talent,” she adds. So, why the double standard?
Double standards obscure history, too. Well known Singapore-based writer Meira Chand, author of the Singapore saga A Different Sky, has written a new novel, Sacred Waters, which recalls the exploits of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of heroic women who joined the Indian National Army (INA) to fight against the British during the Second World War. During her research, she found there was scant material on the women who joined the INA; there was much more on the men. She did interview a few women who had been in the INA but they were in their late 80s, their memories not as sharp as before. We are lucky a writer like Meira Chand has recorded the experiences of these heroic but sadly neglected women.
Veteran journalist Mano Sabnani recently published his memoirs, Marbles, Mayhem and My Typewriter: The Unfadable Life of an Ordinary Man. Far from being an ordinary man, he has had an eventful career, including runs-in with government – episodes he recalled with remarkable candour in an exclusive interview with India Se. “It is impossible to have an intellectually open society without a free press,” he says.
The noughties have been eventful years also for physiotherapists John Abraham and Sheny John, the married couple featured in our cover story. They came to Singapore from India in their 20s and worked their way up the local healthcare system. Encouraged by the patients they treated, he and his wife finally registered their company in October 2016 and set up their own clinic. Rapid Physiotherapy, their clinic in International Plaza on Anson Road, has the avowed mission of providing the highest standard of care to every patient every day. “In fact, our clients became our marketing people,” said John, recalling how they picked up business from the get-go. Providing an extensive range of physiotherapy services, he and his wife are clearly into something good – and making good. Like many another hardworking immigrant, they are realising their dreams in Singapore, a bastion of meritocracy.