Monday, July 31, 2006

Birthday Celebrations

Yesterday, Saturday July 29 I celebrated my birthday. No, I'm not going to tell you how old I turned. I stopped giving away my age when I turned 21 :)

I went home for the week-end to celebrate my special day with my family...after all, who knows where I'll be next year this time and when I'll get to spend my birthday at home again.

I arrived home starving on Friday evening. Luckily my dear mother had food waiting for me. The next day - my birthday, was spent doing some filming for a documentary I'm working on... then went shopping with my folks, and rushed home to get ready for my dinner party which was going to be held at one of my favourite restaurants, Smokey Swallows.

My entire family was there, with a sprinkling of close family friends. The food was delicious, the service we received at Smokey Swallows was outstanding and the evening was really just perfect. I just missed one person who couldn't make it that evening - my special big brother, Vijayan. Of course, my younger brother was DJ'ing and only came towards the end of the evening - as in, the last 40 minutes of it!

Also, I received two flower arrangements and a bouquet from the restaurant at the end of the evening. They were so lovely...

This one was from my uncle, aunt and cousin

this was from Uncle Kriben & family in Durban

and this stunning bouquet was from Smokey Swallows

Birthdays have always been a big thing at home, and trust me - to this day, I'm still like a little kid when July 29 comes around!

Chatterbox August '06: My new appreciation for the arts

The quaint community of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape comes alive every year during the National Arts Festival. Last month I spent about two weeks working on the broadcast coverage of the festival. It was such a memorable experience. Not only did I learn alot about Arts Journalism and various aspects of filmmaking, but I also got to meet many interesting people.

The internationally-acclaimed film, Tsotsi is based on a novel written by Athol Fugard – one of South Africa’s most loved playwrights. Fugard’s play, Sizwe Banzi is Dead was one of the highlights at this year’s festival, and I was fortunate to have interviewed the lead actor in the play, John Kani as well as longtime friend and producer of Fugard’s plays, Mannie Manim. As a Fugard fan, it was thrilling to get to know him through his closest friends.

I also met the members of Remix Dance Project – a dance company based in Cape Town. Their dancers are comprised of abled and disabled people. The dance sequence between a deaf man and one in a wheelchair was so moving. The point of the production was to make the audience aware that disabled people should not be discriminated against just because of their disabilities.

One of the most colourful and interesting productions I watched was a drama production called Umtshato – The Marriage. It was a fusion of dance and theatre which explored the customs and rituals of a Xhosa marriage. After the show the director, Tina Piek told me that the performers improvise each show and that none of it was rehearsed!

Another story I covered was the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band. The band is made up of the youngest jazz performers in South Africa. I was so proud of my cousin, Hashil who plays the trombone and contended with many hopefuls from around the country and was placed in the National Schools Big Band.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Arts Festival. The best thing for me was that I developed a new appreciation and love for the arts…from theatre, dance, art and jazz.

Have a great month, and enjoy the last few days of winter!

* To watch highlights of the festival, please visit the CueTV website.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Tonight I'll be sleeping in my own bed once again - if only for two nights...
Yep...I'm going home this afternoon and will be back on Sunday.

I'm having a birthday dinner tomorrow (Saturday) evening with my entire family and a sprinkling of close friends. I'm having it at a restaurant called Smoky Swallows - exquisite food! I'm really looking forward to it...I'll post pics when I get back.

Have a great week-end, everyone :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hair to Stay

This is a poem written by my dear friend, Sean for his writing class assignment.

Hair to stay

Trust me

My hair is an expression of who I want to be

Someone who embraces change, who wants to experience all that life has to offer and who is not afraid of people’s perceptions of them

Spiked, gelled, shaved or braided

It’s mines to do with as I please

My hair is a statement

A statement that screams I will do whatever the hell I want

Conform, I will not

Do things to please others, I won’t

I have done that for too long

Some people say my hairstyle doesn’t suit me

But I don’t care

Others will not influence the way I live my life

I am too busy trying to live my life than worry about other people’s opinions of me my hair and everything else

Those are their opinions which they are entitled to

But don’t bother me with them

With all the gel in my hair, this hairstyle is here to stay

Deal with it

I know my hair and hairstyle is beautiful because it is part of a beautiful person with a beautiful heart and beautiful soul

Sean Naidoo

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

HIV sufferers find love online

Website helps people living with HIV find love online

Coumba Sylla | Johannesburg, South Africa
26 July 2006 08:23

South African Ben Sassman admits his bid to help a lonely friend living with HIV/Aids started out as a "feel-good project for myself" but is now an online dating service reaching people around the globe.

The Positive Connection, in its third year, can even claim success in the matchmaking game, having brought together a few solid partnerships.

The 39-year-old Cape Town resident, who is married, says his website is "the first and only one in the world solely dedicated" to people living with HIV/Aids.

The idea came after watching the disappointment and stress of an HIV-positive friend repeatedly turned down by women he wanted to date. "Once he disclosed his status, the girl would usually run away."

Sassman suggested he tap into online dating sites, to meet more woman and more potential dates. But the friend baulked, saying "he'll still have to disclose his status" and face rejection.

So Sassman came up with his idea -- an online resource site and meeting place for people living with the stigma of HIV/Aids.

The site's "about us" entry, next to a photo of the good-looking Sassman in a smart, dark business suit, says it aims to "eliminate the stress and emotional difficulty of disclosing your status to your partner".

If people meet someone on -- launched in September 2003 with a R28 000 ($4 000) investment footed solely by Sassman himself -- "you're both in the same health boat, and you can just go on with the date and not worry about disclosing [your status]," he said.

"Therefore there is no emotional pressure explaining your current health status. I thought it would add a little class to how they can meet new and interesting people," the site reads.

Continue reading the article here


As the end of the year comes closer, and I approach the end of my degree I feel a bit sad. Sad because I'm going to say goodbye to so many good friends I have made over the past four years.

Everyone says that the friends you make at university are your friends for life. If I think of my friends from high school, I am in touch with about 8 people. That's more than I actually thought would keep their promise to stay in touch.

But if I think of the friends that I have made here, they are invaluable. Honestly, whether we live two or twenty hours away from home, the fact remains that we are still away from home. I feel like they are my second family.

I still miss my friends in first year who were in res with me.... especially Colleta and Tiwonge.
I won't say that we've gone our separate ways, but the three of us are in different faculties and hardly get to hang out these days. Our personalities and tastes are different at times (except when it comes to the boys of Bollywood!) But when the three of us meet - whether it is together or just one on one, I can really feel the love between and amongst us.

For me, friendship is not having to see each other every day, but when you do see one another, it's as if nothing has changed and you still have loads to talk and giggle about.

Ok, enough with me feeling all sentimental. This post is dedicated to two friends who I regard as my sisters - Colleta and Tiwonge. Girls, I hope you know how much you mean to me, and that I appreciate all our chats, laughs and silly talks. More importantly, I will never forget how you helped me through a very difficult time during our first year. For that, I love you...

By the way (that's Tiwonge in the white and Colleta in the blue)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back "home"

I arrived back on campus yesterday afternoon. I had a pretty short holiday - if you can even call it that. I was so tired yesterday (only got to bed at 3am), so I still have loads of unpacking to do.

This morning I went to my first CompSci1L lecture. I felt like a first year all over again...sitting in the lecture room. The last time I went to a proper lecture was 2 years ago! At the moment, I'm killing time in the computer labs...surfing the net, sending emails etc... But I'm starving, so I think I'm going to grab some lunch and head to my History 102 lecture.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fwd: I hate junk mail!

I'm going to rant and rave for a bit, so just bare with me... and I hope that after my little bitching session, I won't be spammed anymore *crossing my fingers*.

I made my peace with junk mail when I signed up for free email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and a host of others. But then, my dad opened up a secondary account on his business email - which, by the way - once a upon a time, was only given to a selective few. The reason behind my snobbish thoughts was for the very reason I am writing this blog post.

I am irrated to my very core. Usually, I check my email frequently - on some days, depending on how busy I am, more than three times a day. In between important correspondence and work-related e-mails, I get the odd "Johnny Joke" or comical porno pic...or even a chain letter - warning me that if I don't pass it on to 10 people within the next hour, I will be doomed.

Trust me, when I see "Fwd...." in my Inbox glaring at me in the subject line, all it takes is a click of the delete button! Easy as that, but when I know I'm going to be offline for more than say, three days, I send out a general email to people asking them ever so nicely to please not send me any thing for the next few days as my Inbox will be clogged with unneccesary e-mails, jokes, pictures, sound clips etc...

I have been so patient, practically begging email-ers to STOP sending me junk. Frankly, that is what it is - JUNK! If it's of no use to me, it's junk. Junk. Junk. Junk. And I don't like junk. I have even gone as far as saying that I will block people from my email list if they continue to jampack my Inbox with things I don't even open. But those go unnoticed and the very next day I receive an email with a header, "Fwd: fwd: fwd: You're never going to believe this!"

For goodness sakes, people - if you pass that email on to 10 friends, it's very unlikely that you are going to win a trip to Disney World or win a Nokia etc. There is no need to pass it on "just in case it's never know" Oh please! If you do that, you're just buying into more spam and filling YOUR inbox just as much as you're filling up mine!

I have been an active member of the cyber community for over ten years now. Believe me when I say that I have heard / read most of the jokes circulated on email lists.... from the naughty things Johnny has said in the classroom to 100 ways to annoy your boss at work...even to how many blondes it takes to change a lightbulb.

And another thing that grates my nerves is when the body of the email message contains the HUNDREDS of people the message was previously CC'ed to. And people, please...if you really have to forward me a message, please at least have the decency to trim the subject line so that it doesn't read: Fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd:fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd: Open this quick!

Phew! That felt good ranting and raving...thanks for listening...or rather reading about my pet peeve of junk mail ;)

Why don't you rather send me an email saying, " are you?" Tell me what you've been up to etc... I think that even takes less effort that sending a forwarded email. Send me an email like that, and I can assure you I will reply with the most love and affection. Send me a forward, and you will awake the mean monster within me ;)

Have a great week-end, everyone!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Scientists explain déjà vu

A couple of days ago, my mum was asking me "what exactly is déjà vu"?

I have just come across the following article from the Mail & Guardian that explains this very phenomenon.

Scientists try to explain déjà vu
Paris, France
21 July 2006

Researchers believe they have found a key insight into déjà vu, the eerie sensation of seeing something that has already been experienced, the New Scientist magazine reports.

Experiments suggest that déjà vu can be triggered independently, without a real memory to prompt it, the British weekly magazine reports in next Saturday's issue.

Recognising a familiar object or scene is believed to unleash two processes in the brain.

First, the mind searches through its memory archive to see if the contents of that scene have been observed before. If so, a separate part of the brain then identifies the scene or object as being familiar.

To continue reading this article, click here

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Happy Birthday MADIBA

Today, July 18 2006, our beloved Madiba turns 88!

Arguably one of the most loved living beings on the planet, Nelson Mandela still remains one of the most influential people of all time. His life is a remarkable one, and his name will continue to be synonymous with peace and humanity.

Happy Birthday, Mr Mandela!

A week since India’s 7/11

Today marks a week since the awful Mumbai train blasts.

From New York’s September 11, to Madrid’s March 11 to India’s July 11. Is this a pattern? Does it have the signature of a certain terrorist group? Well, some people have their suspicions….

Last week, in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai (previously known as Bombay), a series of several explosions brought the city to a standstill.

Apparently, the explosions were co-ordinated with remarkable efficiency and went off within minutes of each other during rush hour in a commuter rail system.

Nearly 200 people were reported dead while 400 people were severely injured.

The latest reports are that yesterday, Indian police officers were looking for suspects in Mumbai’s slums and largely Muslim ghettos. There are no breakthroughs yet.

However, a number of minority Muslims have been questioned, but no arrests have been made thus far. Indian officials say that Pakistan-based Islamist militant group; Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are the prime suspects.

My heart goes out to all the families who have gone through a tremendous amount of trauma this past week. No one deserves to die by another human’s hand.

Today, a week since the awful July 11 Mumbai blasts, let’s remember all those who were killed, and let’s pray for a safe recovery for all those injured.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Average Weekend

My weekend was pretty average / low-key.

It started off with a bang on Friday afternoon when I got my results for my June Journalism and Media Studies exam. I passed and actually did better than I anticipated.

On Saturday, my mum and I were invited over to a friends place for lunch…we had the most delicious food ever! For the rest of the week-end, I just relaxed and did some work that kept me busy.

This coming week should be a bit more tight as I have to film my individual 6minute documentary. I am doing a kind of profile on an outstanding woman from East London - Lesley Anne Foster. She is responsible for establishing the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre in East London and has done a tremendous amount of work for women and children abuse.

She was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and earlier this year, she was presented an honorary doctorate by Fort Hare University. She is a lady that I so respect and admire, so it’s truly an honour for me to be doing this mini-doccie on her.

I hope everyone has a fantastic week ;) I just have a few days left before I head back to campus for the final semester of 2006!

Over and out…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chatterbox July '06: Journalists are human too

I decided to pursue a career in Journalism about six years ago, and since then I have had work that has been published locally and internationally. I have covered a variety of topics and have been lucky to meet interesting and exciting people.

While writing is and always has been my first love, I have found a new field of interest – the
world of broadcast and the exiting medium of Television. When people know that I am in this field, they often have the misconception of me reporting at war scenes with bombs blasting behind me. However, news reporting is not what I want to pursue. Rather, I am interested in visiting communities and doing human interest stories that affect ordinary people.

I recently worked on a 24-minute documentary about a group of people who lived of
f a rubbish dumpsite. The site is being moved to another location, and an entire community’s livelihood is being taken away - just like that. We visited the squatter camps on numerous occasions so that the local folk could familiarize themselves with us.

At the rubbish dump, I met families who shared their grievances with me. I met elderly people who were tired of complaining and just accepted that they were destined to live such
unfortunate lives. But what really touched me was a family who had a seven week old baby. When I met the mother of the baby, she told me how they hardly had food for him and that he didn’t have enough clothes. At the time of meeting the family, it was freezing cold and the baby had minimal clothing on. Needless to say, my heart broke for this helpless child.

Later that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby I held in my arms. He was oblivious to the atrocious environment he was living in. It’s just not fair”, I thought to myself. Some people will argue that people who live below their means should know better than to have more children than they can support, but my concern lies with the baby. He didn’t ask to be born, and it’s not his fault that he lives in a shack filled with flies and rodents.

I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. Here I was sitting in my comfortable home wearing warm clothes and eating a decent meal, when I just witnessed people competing with dogs and pigs for the leftover food of others on a rubbish dump. It seemed absurd to me that people could lead such a life.

I still couldn’t get the baby out of my mind. I’ve always thought that pitying people is of no use if we don’t actually do something for them. I decided to buy a few essentials that any newborn would need. It felt so good to give it to the mother, who was deeply grateful and appreciative. I felt that it was the least I could have done. After all, I consider myself to be very privileged and fortunate.

Throughout my academic studies of Journalism and Media Studies, I have been trained that as media practitioners, we have an obligation to society – to entertain, inform and tell the truth. Probably the most important rule about Journalism is that we have to be objective and impartial about the stories we produce. We are cultural carriers and the public rely on us to provide the most accurate information about various issues. It is of the utmost importance that we divorce ourselves from the subject we are researching on.

So far, I thought I was doing a good job about remaining objective with my stories. After all, you hear two different sides of an argument, but when you present it to the public, you can’t voice your own opinion. And if one gets personally involved with a particular story it will surely influence the end product. Another example was of a rape demonstration march that I had to film. That day, as much as I wanted to be a supporter for women’s rights, I had to forsake that role and be a journalist.

As for the story I was researching about the people living off the rubbish dump, my mother said to me, “You’re not supposed to get emotionally attached to your stories, and you are”. I didn’t realize how emotionally involved I was becoming. As strange as it seems, in the sphere of Journalism, I feel as though I must consider myself a journalist first, and then a person. But this time, I let it slip. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Basically, all I’m trying to say that as media workers, we are meant to remain impartial and fair to all parties, but sometimes that isn’t always easy. And as difficult as it seems at times, I have to realize that journalists are human too. We have feelings like everyone else. We cringe at the sight of people scavenging like animals in garbage, and believe it or not, we shed tears…even if it is behind a camera lens.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Chatterbox May '06: Bollywood, bindi’s, samoosa’s…and my white friends

For a recent assignment, I had to discuss my construction as a ‘raced’ subject. Writing this essay made me question my identity which left me quite baffled. I’m a South African Indian, meaning that I’m of Indian descent born and living in South Africa. I understand the hardships my forefathers endured to achieve basic rights in this country just as I am aware of my religion and motherland.

During the age of 8 and 15 which were my days at Primary and halfway through High School, I now realize how assimilated I had become to the whiteness of my friends. Now you may question what I mean by the term ‘whiteness’. When used in relation to my friends, I mean it to be the way in which they spoke and behaved. During the lunch hour at school, I would sometimes have toasted cheese sandwiches from the tuck-shop, while, my white friends ate hotdogs and beef burgers. They did not understand why I was not allowed to eat red meat even though I told them it was against my religion. It did not bother me. I had never eaten it, so surely I had no idea of what I was supposedly missing. If I declined an offer of biltong, I was told that I did not know what I was missing out on. It was as if they didn’t even make an effort to understand who I was.

Towards the end of my high school career, Bollywood was being placed on the global map. English music artists began remixing their songs with Indian tunes and musical icons like Madonna and Gwen Stefani started wearing bindi’s.

All of a sudden, my white friends started taking an interest in Indian music and my culture, when before they mocked me when I listened to Indian music or if I did not know who Alanis Morissette or Bon Jovi was. In retrospect, it almost seems as though the western pop culture gave the go ahead for the Indian culture to be “hip”, “cool” and “in fashion”.

As I grapple with the issue of my Indian identity, I am almost ashamed to admit that in order to fit in with the dominant culture, I laughed when my white classmates told jokes which are derogatory to Indian people. They’d put on heavy Indian accents or tease me about why I didn’t study Pharmacy or a Bcomm degree – fields that many Indian people pursue. Despite the fact that I engaged in the laughter, deep down I would be furious.

How dare they (my white classmates) laugh about Indian people or talk of us as though we were of a different human species altogether. Not once would I ever even pass a racial slur regarding any of my friends, regardless of their race. My question that I pose then is, when do racial comments become funny? Are they meant to be taken light-heartedly or are there hidden meanings behind them? When I meet a white person, I certainly don’t ask them for koeksisters or vetkoek. So why do people find it necessary to ask me for “roh-tee” (roti), chicken curry and samoosa’s? …based on the simple fact that I’m Indian!

But the thing that really grates my nerves is when people say, “Where are you from... Durban?” If someone dare asks me that again, I will almost surely write them off. For the six billionth time, No – I’m not from Durban! Believe it or not, not all Indian people hail from Natal!

Looking back on the past few years, I can see the dramatic changes that occurred in the formation of my identity and as such, the construction of myself as a ‘raced’ subject. I should stress that by writing this column, I am not downsizing my white friends. I have merely shared with you my experiences as a South African Indian, and how I have been assimilated into what I regarded was the dominant culture. By doing so, I have come to realize who I really am.

To round this month’s column off, I’d like to congratulate my cousin, Jenita who has just received her degree of Bachelor of Social Work. I was invited to her graduation ceremony and sitting with her parents and grandfather in the audience, I had goose bumps creep up my spine as she walked on stage when her name was announced. The excitement shown on her parents and grandfather’s faces were so evident and heart-warming. They smiled with pride, as did I. On that note, congratulations to graduates all over the country!

Till next month, take care and keep the emails and SMS’s coming in