Tanika Gupta and Sukhdev – Natasha

Hello people! It’s Friday and I am sure everyone is looking forward to the long Bank holiday weekend. As I won’t be able to catch up with my lovely viewers over the weekend, I would like to end this week with solid dose of entertainment. For the first half of the show, we had the exceptionally talented Tanika Gupta (MBE) who is not only a singer and but also an amazing actress,

Tanika is a playwright of Bengali descent. Apart from her work for the theatre, she has also written scripts for television and radio plays. At a very young age Tanika started performing Tagore dance dramas with her parents, Gairika Gupta, a trained Indian classical dancer and Tapan Gupta, a renowned singer.

She came into the limelight with the release of The Waiting Room in 2000 in which her work was immensely enjoyed by varied audiences at the National theatre. When I asked her how she went about writing scripts, with a smile on her face she said that she locked herself in a soundproof room for a year and just kept writing. Tanika has written over 20 plays, which has been released in the National Theatre, Royal Court etc. Her collection of plays has also been published by Oberon. She has also written 30 original scripts for the BBC radio 4, BBC radio 3 and BBC world service. Finally, she has even conducted workshops with the aspiring writers at the Royal Holloway College, University of London and at Central School of Speech and Drama.

As a massive TV buff, I was really impressed when I found out that Tanika had written scripts for the BBC’s Grange Hill series. When I asked about her experience on the show she said that, she loved every minute of it and was given full freedom to follow her imagination. However, she felt that there was a tendency to pigeon hole her as an Asian writer. While she is a proud Asian woman, she felt commissioners felt she could only write about subjects like arranged marriages, mothers-in-law etc.

Tanika spoke about her passion for writing, with great love and said that she had faced a lot of rejection over the years but that simply helped her become who she is today.

Along with Tanika, I was also joined by the theatre actress Reena, who had over 16 years of experience and was trained at one of London’s most prestigious acting Schools. Tanika and Reena are working together for their next play, where Reena will be playing 20 different characters between herself and the male co-star. She is too excited for this opportunity and really looking forward to it

For the second half segment, I was joined by Punjabi singer Sukhdev who originally hails from Nairobi, Kenya. Sukhdev is very passionate about music has been playing the keyboard from a very young age. He gave his first stage performance at the age of 17 and since then has performed in numerous shows.

He spoke about the success he experienced after Tenu Lageya Solva saal, a song that became a global hit! Sukhdev believes that to succeed in life one has to work hard and be determined. It’s always refreshing to meet people in the media industry who are doing well and I’m glad we kicked off the Bank holiday weekend with such lovely and inspirational people.

Edited Polly Harrar – Natasha

Thursday on Zee companion is different from the other weekdays. It is a day where Sujata and I look forward to discussing current and general day-to-day life topics. On today’s show we were joined by the delightful Polly Harrar. I came across Polly a few years ago and had interviewed her but never thought that I would get the opportunity again to have a thought-provoking conversation on chai and chit chat.

For those who do not know Polly, she is the founder of the Sharan Project, a UK based online support service for South Asian women who have been disowned, forcedly or voluntarily left home and are actively seeking support towards successful independent living without fear. Sharan works to support women who have been affected by issues to include domestic violence, forced marriage, honour abuse and other harmful practices. Polly set up The Sharan Project in 2008 and has been advocating for equality and women’s rights for over 20 years. Her previous roles include working at Refuge UK, The Stroke.

The project is well-renowned and popular among its supporters and members of the public who openly support the good work of the organisation.

We started off by asking Polly what inspired her to set up the project. She said that she was in need of support many years ago and needed someone to help her. She is now thrilled that she is in a position where she can help others.

Polly said that any victims of domestic violence should:

  • report the violence to the police
  • leave home temporarily
  • leave home permanently
  • stay in the present home and get the person who is harming you to leave
  • take legal action

The mission of the Sharan project is to give a South Asian women confidence, support and opportunity so that they can grow into independent successful women of the future.

In the next segment of the show, we chose to pick a topic which is quite close to everyone’s heart — selecting a life partner! In today’s day and age, we have several matrimonial websites, dating sites and other social media accounts, where people can conveniently find their ideal match, meet over a few cups of coffee, and eventually decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Back in the old days, there use to be a special meeting between families with all the chai and samosas, where the boy and the girl would sneak a look at each other — quite awkward if you ask me! This is slowly dying out, thankfully and people are allowed to meet privately to allow them to make a proper, well-thought decision for themselves.

Personally, I am a believer of ‘live and let live’. To be honest I have heard stories, both good and bad. I’m fine with people meeting through different websites and marrying. However, I am also sceptical of the internet because I also know people who have lied about their identity and relationship status which has made me very suspicious of it.

Sujata had a completely different perspective from me on this. She felt, whatever way you come across the person, if things work out and if he is a perfect match it doesn’t matter, as long as you understand each other and can make it work in the long run.

Polly said that this generation has very modern thinking and most of them believe in online dating and long distance relationship, as long as people are honest and safe and are ready to be committed it’s all fine. But before taking any important decision of your life always have a word with your parents and family, it is very important to take a second opinion.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

It was a great Chai and chit chat session with some stimulating topics and different perspectives from Polly and Sujata.

Raj Rana and Sunitha – Sujata Joshi

One way of making any special event in our life even more special is to celebrate it with all our friends and family. And all of us want to plan the perfect event. On today’s show I was joined by Raj Rana, owner of the restaurant ‘’Itihaas’’ in Birmingham. According to him, there has been a major change in the way events are organised in the UK over the past 10 years. When they started out , organising a wedding was more about saving money and at the same time having a lot of guests but now that has changed, people are comfortable with spending a little more but at the same time having fewer guests. That is probably because the bride and groom have become more involved in the entire wedding process. Raj said that maintaining the Indian flavour to the weddings here is very tough, especially in the case of inter-community marriages, where the bride and the groom are from different religious backgrounds.

Food is probably one of the most important part of organising any event. It is also probably one of the most discussed topics at any event. Unfortunately due to this there is a tendency to order in excess. While in India there are a lot of food banks that will happily take the left over edible food from the weddings, in the UK the health and safety rules are very strict. Raj said that for the past 9 years Itihaas donated 250 meals to the Salvation Army. Some of this food is usually that which is edible and left over at the different events that they cater to. If that at some point falls short of the 250 portions required, then the shortfall is met with and the food then is donated. He also said that at events they usually offer boxes and take away containers so that people can take away the excess food and either have it themselves or give them out to any food bank or charity as they deem fit. Raj said that most people today have become very conscious when it comes to food wastage. Another important thing in the UK is that people are usually asked to RSVP at any event so that helps to reduce the food wastage even before the event has started. But in countries like India or Pakistan there are very few events with RSVP and even if it is mentioned, most people don’t really bother to respond.

The best part about the food served in the UK at a wedding is that there is an amazing combination of the buffet concept that is very common in India and the fine dining experience as is the culture in the UK. In Indian weddings Raj said that they usually have a fine dining experience and have a buffet at the table with the food on the menu in that particular course and these buffet bowls are refilled as and when necessary. He also said that he makes sure their chef is present at all the meetings with the bride and the groom to help them decide the food that they want to have at their wedding and also to answer all their queries. He said that people usually have 2 or 3 tastings before deciding on the menu. The most difficult part of the food at the wedding is that the taste of the food that was served during the tasting session has to be exactly the same on the day of the wedding when the portions of food cooked are 10 times larger. Raj said that they have a book which is thicker than two telephone directories put together that contains all the recipes of the food served at the restaurant and any chef will be usually trained for six months and will have to follow the exact recipe before the food that he has made reaches anyone’s table.

The most important and special day of anyone’s life can be made even more special with the perfect planning. Raj said that with hiring an event planner, the bride and the groom on their special day do not need to deal with 10 different people and can be carefree. Speaking about the 200 things that can go wrong on the day he said that they are usually prepared for it. Like in the case of the British weather which is so highly unpredictable Raj said that when planning the event outdoors, they always have a Plan B to be able to do something indoor.