SOCIETY
 

Nowhere to belong
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writer and journalist, is a fierce fighter against racism and discrimination. She is one of the thousands who had to flee home country Uganda to Britain after Idi Amin’s diktat. It was tough going for her. She never felt at home in Britain and experienced racism at many levels. She was recently in Kolkata, presenting her autobiographical notes in a solo stage performance. Sonali Jha Chatterjee reports
H
ER petite frame, unruly curly hair and quick smile belie the fact that this lady is today one of the foremost voices against racism, gender bias and nationalism. Meet 57-year-old Yasmin Alibhai Brown, the only non-white political columnist in a mainstream newspaper, The Independent for the last nine years.

Women prefer Mr Average
W
HEN it comes to their Mr Right, it seems that most women would rather settle for the average Joe than a man with a large salary, fast car and a high-flying job. In a new research, researchers at the University of Central Lancashire led by Simon Chu have found that the reason why women would rather be with Mr Medium, is because they find attractive successful men "too good to be true", and believe that the relationship won’t last.

Picking the perfect lehenga
Aakriti Sinha
Aishwarya has decided: It’s going to be a traditional lehenga for her wedding. The anmol Banarasi lehenga, to be crafted by a master weaver of the city famous for signature Banarasi sarees, will have Banarasi zardozi and Kolkatan-Jaipuri embroidery on a silken base.






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Nowhere to belong

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writer and journalist, is a fierce fighter against racism and discrimination. She is one of the thousands who had to flee home country Uganda to Britain after Idi Amin’s diktat. It was tough going for her. She never felt at home in Britain and experienced racism at many levels. She was recently in Kolkata, presenting her autobiographical notes in a solo stage performance. Sonali Jha Chatterjee reports

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s widely acclaimed autobiography No Place like Home, brought out in 1995, depicts her early life in Uganda
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s widely acclaimed autobiography No Place like Home, brought out in 1995, depicts her early life in Uganda

HER petite frame, unruly curly hair and quick smile belie the fact that this lady is today one of the foremost voices against racism, gender bias and nationalism. Meet 57-year-old Yasmin Alibhai Brown, the only non-white political columnist in a mainstream newspaper, The Independent for the last nine years. Being in a rather unique position as a columnist, she thinks of it as a rather difficult position to be in as "everybody thinks you are on their side and will only represent the good side of the community. A journalist is a journalist is a journalist. Hence, what follows is a lot of clashes over opinions."

The Iraq war, feels Yasmin, has shown print journalism in its true light. It has come up in a big way and can be properly called the fourth estate, exposing the true face of political powers.

Yasmin was recently in Kolkata stealing the limelight, this time on stage performing a solo act titled Nowhere to Belong, hosted by the British Council, in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Society, this performance grew out of a lecture, shaped and changed by a director over a period of six months. Most of her act finds reflection in her autobiography, spanning her years in Uganda and Britain. She admits that this show has been a defining moment in her life.

Back in school, Yasmin’s teachers thought she should be an actress since she had been acting a lot since the age of five. Shakespeare always had a special place in her heart. It was while playing Juliet in school, that brought about a dramatic change in Yasmin’s life. She committed the ‘sin’ of kissing Romeo, played by a black man, on stage. This severed her ties with her father and strained relations with the other relatives. The anguish is brought out in this performance.

Born into the Ugandan-Asian community in 1950, Yasmin belongs to the Ismaili sect. She describes her family as "a lower middle class family in Uganda. My dad did jobs and didn’t, but my mother worked and supported us—later my brother`85. So we were living on borrowed time."

After gaining her degree in English literature from Makerere University in 1972, Yasmin left Uganda for Britain in June that year, to pursue M.Phil at Oxford University. A couple of months later, Idi Amin issued an expulsion order that forced the mass migration of Ugandan-Asians.

This marked a defining moment in her life, and a basis for her future work involving race and identity. Her pain on leaving the only home she knew is evident when she says, "`85leaving Uganda, having to make a new life in Britain, realising it was my home but it was not my home, having children in a country where they’d belong much more than I would ever will. I have been constantly fighting and arguing with my new country."

Very simply, she calls herself ‘a philistine’. Britain has changed a lot since she arrived but she finds much of the British attitude remains the same. "In Britain", she says, "it’s important to know who is British and who is not. The subtleties are always there."

Yasmin worked as a teacher for more than 10 years. She then moved on to working with refugees, teaching them language and survival skills. She admits that she always had a strong passion for the dispossessed. At 35, she embarked on a career as a journalist and has been going strong for the past 22 years. She has written for The Guardian, New Statesman, The New York Times, and Newsweek, amongst others. She has worked on numerous radio and television programmes, producing documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC.

Her widely acclaimed autobiography No Place Like Home, in 1995, shows the dichotomy of her early life in Uganda. She agrees that unlike in South Africa where the people worked together against apartheid, "in east Africa, we had a split personality". On the one hand, "we loved Gandhi and Nehru and were happy that India was independent`85 but we also cried when Uganda became independent". She calls her kind ‘rather schizoid’.

In 1999, Yasmin published True Colours, which dealt with political leadership and their attitude to racial minorities. It called on the British government to be proactive towards combating racism. She was therefore amazed to receive a call from the PMO telling her that the Prime Minister would like to launch her book, and so it was.

Some of her works include Who Do We Think We Are: Imagining the New Britain, After Multiculturalism, The Colour of Love: Mixed Race Relationships, Mixed Feelings and Some of my Best Friends Are. She has won several prestigious awards including the BBC ASIA Award for Achievement in Writing 1999, the Commission for Racial Equality Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism 2000, EMMA Media Personality of the Year 2000 and the George Orwell Prize for Political Journalism 2002.

In India, she is saddened to see that like Britain, here too there is a sense of deference among people for the rich. But her heart leaps up with joy on seeing school students here because she says they know how to behave. In Britain, they behave, dress and talk very rudely. Yasmin feels her 13-year-old daughter would gain a lot if she were to study in India.

She is currently working on a historical food memoir beginning on the Malabar coast. It is through the journey of food from 60 AD that Yasmin will be looking at the migration of people from Gujarat and Kutch who were taken as indentured labourers to Africa and the rest of the world. — TWF
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Women prefer Mr Average

WHEN it comes to their Mr Right, it seems that most women would rather settle for the average Joe than a man with a large salary, fast car and a high-flying job.

In a new research, researchers at the University of Central Lancashire led by Simon Chu have found that the reason why women would rather be with Mr Medium, is because they find attractive successful men "too good to be true", and believe that the relationship won’t last.

Another fear, it seems when it comes to successful men, is that women are apprehensive that such men are more likely to stray, and will lack the time and dedication to help raise kids.

As a part of the study the researchers, asked a team of students to rate photographs of 60 men in their twenties on a physical attractiveness scale.

Six good-looking men, six average men and six unattractive men were then selected. Alongside each photograph was information on the man’s age, what he was looking for in a partner, and a randomly chosen profession. The researchers then asked 186 female students with an average age of 23 to rate the attractiveness of each man as a long-term partner.

To their astonishment, the researchers found that though on a purely physical level the best-looking men were rated the highest, when it came to settling down to a long-term partnership, women preferred average guys.

Those who were good-looking and had a medium status job scored more highly than attractive men with more high-flying jobs.

"While women might prefer men who score highly on both attractiveness and resource-holding potential, it remains possible that these men might be perceived as being too good to be true," Daily Mail quoted Simon Chu, as saying.

"In other words, a high level of physical attractiveness coupled with high status may be an especially attractive package to other women as well and men in this position may be more likely to pursue a mating rather than a parenting strategy," he added.

Chu suggested that another reason why women, especially those with careers, prefer average men, could be that they are subconsciously thinking about the time such men will be able to spend with the children.

"While increasing status brings clear resource benefits, this may also bring a trade-off with the amount of child-rearing time that high status individuals have available. It is likely that high-status individuals can afford less time to devote to childcare than individuals of lower status," he concluded. — ANI
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Picking the perfect lehenga
Aakriti Sinha

Aishwarya has decided: It’s going to be a traditional lehenga for her wedding. The anmol Banarasi lehenga, to be crafted by a master weaver of the city famous for signature Banarasi sarees, will have Banarasi zardozi and Kolkatan-Jaipuri embroidery on a silken base.

Also, the 21 sarees ordered by the Bachchan family, would comprise mostly georgettes in varied hues like pink, scarlet, mustard, royal blue and magenta with exquisite pearl and stonework.

A wedding is an auspicious occasion and the bridal attire demands keen attention, careful planning, and an elegant display because it is specially meant to make an individual look one’s best.

Market is flooded with styles and shopkeepers are ever ready to convince you how that ‘one’ lehenga is specially made for you only. Trousseau shopping is every bride’s nightmare. It has to be perfect yet as inexpensive as possible. Of course, since it is your wedding, you must keep in mind that the silhouettes must be ultra feminine. Indian handlooms offer some must-haves in the trousseau variety of sarees, like the Banarasi, Paithani, tissue, Kanjeevaram and the bandhani in silk.

You could complement these with embroidered cholis, which are immensely chic. But the best way is to stick to the ethnic and original three-piece lehenga with a contemporary look. The hand-designed clothes with hand-woven motifs give the bride a total Indian look while keeping in mind the changing modern trends.

Colours are an added aspect of bridal trends. They have changed radically, with black and white as well as other hues being introduced this time. You can look for a lot of metallic tones in clothes with gold and silver zardosi, dabka and salma with multi-coloured beadwork.

Diya Mirza wore an exquisite peach crepe ghagra, choli and odhni in the movie Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. Besides Ekta Kapoor’s heroines, our celluloid stars reinforce our rich culture and traditions. And, how fashionably they do that.

Adds the true-blue Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra on his toughest assignment: to design for Karisma’s real-life wedding. "Karisma is known for her well-turned-out wardrobe, so the bridal outfit had to be spectacular. I wanted to keep the colour a surprise, it wasn’t a conventional colour. Though the look was traditional, the cut was extremely unusual. Her sister Kareena, meanwhile, was outfitted in something vibrant, like her personality. Both actresses also wore lehengas for the sangeet. For most brides, the decision is not about whether to wear a lehenga or not on their wedding, but what kind of lehenga to choose — with panels or mermaid-cut? A backless or halter-neck choli? With gota or zardosi embroidery?" — MF

Priceless choices

WITH so much of variety on hand, it can be difficult to zero in on the final pick for specific functions. To clear the air, here are a few choices:

Mehendi ceremony

This ceremony is a traditional one. Try a bright bride-like saree, in a wine or an ochre shade, a Banarasi or a Kanjeevaram, with traditional motifs. Or, go for the zardosi lehengas, which come in different styles and are glamorous and elaborate.

For the wedding

Colours like mango, peach, pista are some options for an elegant, subdued look. Designer lehengas with rich traditional chikan or zardosi embroidery and a dupatta to match shall prepare you for the most auspicious ceremony of your life.

Reception

For the wedding reception, ghagra-cholis in traditional colours like maroon, burgundy, pink, red or wine shades, with intricate zardosi work look stunning. Team this with traditional jadau jewellery. Let your wedding attire be as special and grand as your wedding day! Richly embellished with awe-inspiring work and designed tastefully not just in traditional reds and maroons but also in pastel shades, for the brides who are innovative and experimentative. Let festive flamboyance be a part of you and let it reflect on your priceless wedding lehenga.


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