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Below is my recollection of what I’ve been up to in my life so far . . .
The Early Years
I was born in Leicester, England on March 11th 1970, to parents who emigrated from India in the late 1960’s. I was brought up in an entrepreneurial environment, as my parents owned a slew of business during my childhood – gas station, newsagent shop, silver service restaurant and nightclub, steakhouse, and coffee shop. Duly, my younger years were spent moving from city to city every 3-4 years until we finally settling down in South Wales, U.K. in 1982. This saw me through my high school years in a tiny mining village called Pencoed.
Apart from the local off licence owners (who moved to the village a few years after us), my family was the only Indian family in the vicinity, which explained the curious stares we would get every time my 2 sisters, brother and I would leave the house. I remember my first day at school where people would come up to me just to touch my skin, as if it wasn’t real or something. I didn’t mind, however, because it was a far cry from the daily “Packie” mantra I had endured whilst living in England the previous 12 years of my life, although it took me years, decades in fact, to come to terms with my feeling of never being good enough because of this ritual social conditioning on one side and my parents dismay because my interests for a career lay in multidisciplinary arts and not in medicine, law or teaching, on the other.
At the age of 15, I went to work for my family’s catering business part time and then full time by the time I was 17, when my parents left the reigns of the business in my hands while they took a sabbatical. During this time, I learned the ropes of how to run a business and more importantly, how to effectively manage personalities. But my heart simmered a secret desire to enter the Arts still, so simultaneously, while working for the family, I taught myself how to write and record songs in my self built bedroom studio and enrolled in Shakespeare and comedy improv amateur theatre. Once my parents got wind of this, as expected, despite the fight, everything was stopped and I was encouraged into an arranged marriage at the age of 22, just like my older sister before me.
The Married Years
The marriage brought me to Canada for the first time and an alliance with a very kind hearted dentist who would remain my husband for eight years. The transition from the U.K. to Canada was an extremely difficult one for me because the intense feeling of displacement took its toll during the first five years of the marriage (yes, THAT long).
Looking back, I know now that the marriage was doomed to fail – not because of him, not even because of me, but because of the baggage that I came in it with, my inability to understand how to cope with it and his inability to know how to help me help myself. I never blamed him for the breakup because he did everything he could to try and make me happy but the intense feeling of regret that I wasn’t able to stand up against my parents and follow my passion into the arts and having to leave all that was familiar to me in the U.K. to come to a country that I had absolutely no desire to be in, over took everything and eventually, we went our separate ways. But during our time together, we gave birth to a beautiful boy named Karam and a successful dental practice (both in 1997).
What made the breakup even more imminent was the two years we spent apart from each other, at a time when the marriage wasn’t in a place that it could recuperate. Whilst my son was five weeks old, I moved with him to Rochester, New York (for those two fateful years), returning with an Associates Degree in Dental Hygiene (graduating with distinction) and being honoured with the ‘Warner-Lambert Professional Hygiene Award’, in 1999. In 2000, the marriage ended and I was faced with single parenthood and the reality of having to make a decision about what to do with the rest of my life.
I remember those days; partly excited about finally being able to live my life my way and partly petrified because I had no idea if I could, now that I had liberty on my side; or did I?
The Reinvention Years
After much deliberation and an understanding that my passion for the Arts was an unrequited love affair that had not yet seeded past the embryonic state, I moved into fetus phase full throttle by going back to school in 2000-2001 to learn about the media business, figuring that since this industry is the single most powerful platform in existence in terms of effecting change in society, maybe it will allow me to help people like me, find an anchor to dock their true calling to shore rather than live a life in an ocean of conditioning and regret as I had done for the first 30 years of my life.
With courses from Humber College and Ryerson Polytechnic University (Toronto) in the bag, I began my journey in media with the biggest rose-tinted glasses this side of the Atlantic, thinking that I was going to change the parameters of media through nothing more than the shear belief that I could (I really did belief this and in part, still do).
My first and last taste of media (outside of my own) was training to be an on air reporter at Rogers TV and CFMT TV (now OMNI TV). Suffice to say, it was short lived because I couldn’t get my head around why stories in media were bent towards a certain bias that was held corporately speaking rather than letting the people speak as they felt compelled to. I wanted to tell my community’s stories from “their” perspective and not from a “peering through the window” perspective, so I left corporate media almost as quickly as I joined it, with one mission in mind – that I must do it myself.
The Birth Of ANOKHI MEDIA
I founded ANOKHI MEDIA in June 2002 with the vision of creating a one-stop multimedia resource to communicate and engage intimately with the global South Asian community from both the eastern and western perspectives that influence(d) today’s South Asian like me. I also wanted to (and still do) provide a platform for relevant and penetrative connectivity between the community (micro) and mainstream community (macro) at large by ensuring that the content is produced and packaged in an inclusive manner. With this as the central focus and mission, my team and I set forth to create a brand that would forge this vision into the mindshare of the community (both of them) and market share of the client (companies that wanted to target the SA community).
CLICK HERE for the nutshell version and read below for the in depth story . . .
Phase One: Fall 2002 saw the launch of ANOKHI Magazine, a quarterly glossy which has since become know as North America’s favourite South Asian, fashion, lifestyle and entertainment magazine, having had exclusive covers with Bollywood (Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif Kaif, Mallika Sherawat), Hollywood (Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly Furtado, Nicole Scherzinger), and crossover stars (Freida Pinto, Lisa Ray, Jay Sean, Siva Kaneswaran (The Wanted)). These cover stories signature branding have been the Open Chest With Raj Girn interviews for 12 years, which were made available in one location at www.OpenChest.com in 2011.
Phase Two: Winter of 2007, the brand expanded its repertoire to include an Annual Awards Event, comprising a media red carpet reception, awards, fashion & entertainment show, and a high energy VIP after party experience. The event was established to celebrate the regional, national and international success story of the dynamic South Asian community, and has since become an annual calendar highlight amongst its consumer, clients, participating talent, celebrities, and the media. Celebrity attendance has included: Priyanka Chopra, Freida Pinto, Sakina Jaffrey, Noureen DeWulf, Jay Sean, Raghav, Payal Singhal, Vikram Phadnis and Falguni & Shane Peacock, to name a few.
Phase Three: Spring of 2013 saw a move into online with the launch of www.AnokhiMedia.com, with the goal of this being the hub to showcase the magazine archives, an extensive blog community with regular, current and buzz blogs, as well as 2 online video channels: Spotlight TV and Pulse TV as well as adjunctive YouTube channels. Social media activity at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, accelerated as a result, and a weekly newsletter was launched as a means to distribute all the content being produced.
Phase Four: In the Fall of 2014, ANOKHI MEDIA started working on an aggressive pivot towards a more online/mobile/digital business model, post extensive market and industry research to establish how to further optimize targeting, penetration and engagement of our community, regionally, nationally and internationally. This has seen a re-design in the newsletter in January 2015 as a pilot project for a potential brand wide re-launch. The project was received extremely well with it clean lines and simple functionality, that a full website re-design is in progress for launch this summer 2015 as a consequence. In the interim, we are working on a site facelift to accommodate our new content model, which will include: a weekly ANOKHI magazine features edition (online); expansion of our blog to include regular blogs (what you see on the site now), current blogs (the world this week stories), and buzz blogs (pop culture centric); Spotlight TV and Pulse TV will continue as weekly editions on Mondays and Wednesdays respectively.
ANOKHI MEDIA has garnered an extensive, long-term, multi-national client base due to its innovative strategies and pioneering initiatives. These companies include but are not limited to: L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline, Garnier, Biotherm, Pantene, Oil Of Olay, Crest, Johnnie Walker, Ciroc, Jaan Liquor, TD Bank, Rowenta Beauty, Air Canada, Etihad Airways, Hilton Hotels, Sheraton Hotels, Fairmont Royal York Hotel and so many more. Media coverage has also been vast, including: CBC, CTV, Global, Rogers, Omni, Toronto Star and National Post but to name a few.
The OPEN CHEST Story
In 2011, I decided to launch www.OpenChest.com so that there would be a home for all of the ANOKHI magazine cover stories I had done over the years. I wanted a place where I could host my personal brand by exercising more freedom and intimacy with the public through engaging in ‘no holds barred’, conversational style interviews I had already branded with ANOKHI MEDIA, called Open Chest With Raj Girn. This began as a brand through which I initially licensed celebrity interviews to ANOKHI Magazine. Celebrities like: Aishwarya Rai, Freida Pinto, Kal Penn, Russell Peters, Jay Sean, Nelly Furtado and Nicole Scherzinger, but to name a few. The interviews were and remain, free flowing uncensored conversations that are indicative of my own belief system which is best described through the brand’s tagline: Intelligent. Provocative. Relevant. They can be accessed HERE.
I decided to diversify the Open Chest brand by adding another platform – online TV so that I could expand the types of people I wanted to interview to include well-known personalities from industries other than entertainment. New episodes go live every Friday. To access these conversations, CLICK HERE.
My next incarnation is to expand the parameters of whom I interview to include everyday people like me, with a story to tell. If you have a story about your life or someone you know that you would like to talk to me about, please contact me by filling out this form. I sincerely look forward to hearing from you and the opportunity to sit and chat face to face. If you are not in the Toronto, Canada area, not to worry, we can skype, speak on the phone and even email chat, so don’t hesitate to fill out the form by clicking HERE.
A few times a week, I’ll be posting my thoughts in Open Chest Diaries, which could be about anything that I’m feeling passionate about musing about. This is the one place where I’ll be sharing my inner most thoughts, perspectives and feelings so if you’re game, share them with me HERE.
And once a week, I will be delivering a round up of my weekly happenings in a free newsletter so if you don’t have time to stop by my site often, this is a great option for you to not miss anything.
Check them out HERE.
And that thing I said about liberty earlier on . . . I’m still searching.
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