RUBINA’S RADAR: PPE FUNDRAISER FOR MUMBAI’S MEDIA PERSONNEL ON THE CORONAVIRUS FRONT LINES

A conversation with a photographer friend of mine on Coronavirus news duty every single day since March 2020, impelled me into thinking about the health risks our Indian media was being exposed to, whilst I stayed safely at home, in quarantine and the lockdown, on government orders. I often wondered how they’d power through the weeks, and now months of the reportage on the pandemic everyday, which seemed endless then, and continues unabated with its relentless savagery on humans. Everyone’s lauding the first responders and medical teams, the police, the hygienists and the cleaners, and very rightly so, but nobody seems to be taking cognisance of the indispensable and crucial work photographers, videographers and journalists are doing on the ground, outside. They’re the people bringing in the news and visuals of the virus every day, and the heart-wrenching devastation and strife it’s inflicting on humans across the world. By going out and reporting from containment and red zones, they’re risking their own lives, and livelihoods, in an extremely uncertain and broken economy and that is saying something. Everything we know about the virus, right from the whats and the hows to the vaccine developments and trials, is through the eyes and lenses of the media as everyone’s in lockdown and quarantined at home. Even as some parts of the world are opening up ever so cautiously after months of isolation and physical distancing of late, their work carries on. It is their photographs and stories that tell us what the new world looks like, how human behaviour has changed and will continue to evolve in the years to come.

On April 20th, 2020, when I heard that 53 press personnel in Mumbai had tested positive for the Coronavirus, and were incapacitated and hospitalised, I just knew I had to do something about protecting them on duty as staying safe at home or working from home wasn’t an option for them. I couldn’t bear the thought of people I know and have worked with going out to work, risking their all for their jobs, without any protection from the virus.

On April 23rd, 2020, I spearheaded a fundraiser by reaching out to my network for contributions as a collective, humane responsibility to purchase Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as a preventive measure for Mumbai’s news photographers and media personnel covering the Corona crisis on the front lines, to shield them. I am ever so thankful to the people – from all walks of life in India – that responded promptly and empathetically towards the fundraiser with their fiscal largesse like industrialist Ness Wadia, businesswoman Natasha Poonawalla (Executive Director, Serum Institute of India, Pune), filmmaker Karan Johar (Dharma Productions), actor Amrita Arora, film costumer Ana Singh, businesswoman Eesha Sukhi and jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal (Director, The Gem Palace, Jaipur). Since then, the fundraiser has received contributions from jeweller Queenie Singh, art patron Shalini Passi and filmmaker Gaurav Chawla, enabling the purchase of safety eyewear too for the media.

It is because of the financial support of these very people that the PPE’s reached Mumbai on May 5th, 2020 and were distributed to the media personnel from May 6th onwards. These PPE’s are certified by SITRA – South India Textile Research Association, Coimbatore for fabric and garment – and are for one-wear only. I feel the kindness of all the contributors needs to be highlighted and celebrated, and not go unnoticed as anonymous benefactors, because talking about them will go on to inspire many others to come forward in this crisis to help each other in our country. Every contributor has stepped up as a humanitarian to help our media community, and that is reason enough to laud any helping hand. All of them have made this little fundraiser of mine a bigger success that I ever envisaged it to be and the media community are ever so grateful for their kindness. The PPE’s and safety eyewear bought with the funds raised so far have been distributed to the Mumbai media personnel and I am in the midst of ordering more PPE’s from the second round of funding that has come around. I intend to keep raising funds to provide the PPE’s for as long as they are needed during the Corona crisis.

The PPE fundraiser has been chronicled in the Mumbai Mirror (07.05.2020 edition) and the kindness of the contributors has been sincerely appreciated. The PPE initiative was featured in the Urdu press and online, and I am grateful for people supporting the fundraiser. Encouraging words and tall praise from people I love and admire across the world has raised me up, gladdened my heart (which is rather dire nowadays!) and fuelled me to strive and do even more!

SHOBHAA DE: Rubina’ s spontaneous gesture to mobilise support and order the best quality PPE suits for media colleagues risking their lives to cover the pandemic, must be acknowledged as a gesture that led to many others following her example.

JACKIE SHROFF: The media has always been there on the forefront, come what may. The fourth estate are a brave lot and will have my respect, always. And, you keep shining Rubina!

FERN MALLIS: Rubina Khan is a Covid19 hero… as a photojournalist, she watched her colleagues out in the streets and in the trenches covering the story of this ungodly pandemic and no one had their backs… they put themselves in danger to keep us all informed. Her initiative to secure funds and thereby supply this vital press corp with all the necessary PPE’s was so smart, compassionate and right on. It’s now in its second round of providing more. Thank you Rubina from the epicenter of Coronavirus in New York City.

ANA SINGH: The press has always celebrated my work and my milestones and in this particularly grave time, I feel God chose me to give back to them and I feel grateful for the opportunity. When Rubina spoke to me about the PPE fundraiser, being a journalist and photographer herself, I got a sense of what the media personnel on the field were possibly going through and what it must feel like for them, and their families at home to work outdoors. Rubina’s empathy and concern for her colleagues made this fundraiser a success and she’s leading by example of how to get things done, even when you’re not out there on the field, without being self-serving.

ELEANOR COOKSEY: I am very proud to count Rubina as a long standing family friend. Her recent PPE fundraiser activity is testament to her diverse and unique skills; her thoughtfulness (it is too easy to forget about all those affected in different ways), her resourcefulness and her determination. Here in the UK, there have been endless discussions about how to secure adequate PPE’s with endless delays and excuses. This initiative was conceived and achieved so quickly – the funds raised and the PPE’s reaching the people who needed it in two weeks. A rare positive story amid all this fear and uncertainty.

PARRIS FOTIAS: During these surreal times where we are being constantly bombarded with fake news stories, we are more reliant than ever on responsible journalism bringing us the real facts. Yet no one really thought about the media and their fate during this pandemic. I commend Rubina for her foresight and determination to help protect her colleagues out on the front lines in Mumbai. We are all in this together so much thanks to you Rubina and your PPE fundraising efforts from Australia.

UPDATE: JUNE 2020
Ness Wadia has contributed generously towards the second round of funding end May and fashion designer Manish Malhotra and Delna Poonawalla in early June.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | INDUSTRIALIST NESS WADIA AT THE CN WADIA GOLD CUP 2020 RACE DAY

One of the most beautiful, earth-to-sky open spaces in Mumbai is the Royal Western India Turf Club’s racecourse at Mahalaxmi. The RWITC is one of the oldest and most well-known horse racing clubs in India. The landscape and architectural style of the oval-shaped 2400-metre Mahalaxmi race track is inspired by the Flemington Racecourse by the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia). Flemington hosts Australia’s most famous thoroughbred horse race, the Melbourne Cup, the richest two-mile handicap in the world and one of the richest turf races, on the first Tuesday of November every year. The first race was held on its grounds in 1861.
gettyimages-1208482066-2048x2048The Mahalaxmi race track’s elite equestrian play has witnessed regal heads of state like Queen Elizabeth II of England attending its racing calendar in 1961, as also the Shah of Iran and the King of Saudi Arabia. The Mahalaxmi racecourse is of the essence in the architectural narrative of Mumbai, and the equestrian legacy of India. Founded in 1800 by Sir Charles Forbes, G. Hall, A. Campbell and P. Haddow as the Bombay Turf Club in the Byculla Club Grounds, it went on to being renamed the Western India Turf Club in 1864. But it was only when philanthropist and industrialist Sir Cusrow Nowrosjee Wadia donated 225 acres of land to the Western India Turf Club in 1878 and advanced an interest-free loan to the club to build the racecourse and grandstands, that it was built under the direction of Major J E Hughes, and horse racing shifted to its current and permanent home in Mahalaxmi in 1883. HRH King George V, the then Emperor of India, allowed the club to add the prefix ‘Royal’ to its name in 1935.

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Industrialist Ness Wadia at the CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 Race Day on March 08, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

March 8, 2020 saw industrialist Ness Wadia in attendance, with his nephew Jah and niece Ella, at the 76th edition of the CN Wadia Gold Cup. The CN Wadia Gold Cup is held every year at the racecourse in Sir Cusrow Nowrosjee Wadia’s honour for his largesse and equestrian patronage. Sir Cusrow was born to Nowrosjee Nusserwanjee Wadia (August 30, 1849 – December 19, 1899) who’d established the Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co. for textiles in 1879. Nowrosjee was awarded the honour of Champion of the Indian Empire (CIE) by the British government in 1889 for his business strengths and extensive socio-economic philanthropy and his wife, Bai Jerbai Wadia, built baugs or housing colonies in Mumbai between 1908 and 1956 on more than 35 acres of land for lower income groups in the city. Inspired by their parents, both Cusrow and Ness, the sons of Nowrosjee and Bai Jerbai, built the Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital and the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Women and Children in their memory and continued the philanthropic legacy they’d inherited till they were alive.

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Zavaray Poonawalla, Chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) with industrialist Ness Wadia and his niece, Ella Wadia at the CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 Race Day on March 08, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Mr Zavaray Poonawalla, Chairman, Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) lauded Wadia’s philanthropic pursuits and thanked him profusely for his family’s continued patronage of the racecourse. Poonawalla also honoured him with a commemorative trophy to mark the occasion. The CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 (Gr. 2) was won by seven-year-old Vulcan, ridden by A. Sandesh, who also won three other races on the day.  

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Industrialist Ness Wadia with young survivors of cardiac ailments treated by the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children, at the CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 Race Day at the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) on March 08, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

After the race, children afflicted by heart ailments, who have been successfully treated by the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children, performed a little song and dance routine in the paddock – a heartening moment for all. The little kids looked healthy and happy, and cheerfully posed for pictures in the warm, afternoon sun.

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Ella Wadia, Ness Wadia and Jah Wadia at the CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 Race Day on March 08, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

The CN Wadia Gold Cup is supported by the Wadia Group and their companies – Britannia Industries Ltd, Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co, GoAir, Bombay Realty, Bombay Burmah Trading Company Ltd, National Peroxide Ltd, and the Wadia Hospitals.

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Industrialist Ness Wadia at the CN Wadia Gold Cup 2020 Race Day on March 08, 2020 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

“It is a moment of pride for me to represent the Wadia Group on this special occasion to commemorate the immense contributions made by Sir Cusrow Nowrosjee Wadia, not only as a successful businessman, but as a custodian of the legacy of philanthropy his parents left him. A keen horseracing enthusiast, Sir C N Wadia was instrumental in giving Mumbai it’s first and only world-class racecourse, which is one of Mumbai’s greatest architectural landmarks. The lasting legacy left behind by him has been a huge responsibility for successive generations of the Wadia family to carry on, and I am certain that our future generations will continue to walk the path laid down by him,” said Wadia of his presence.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | NAME AND FAME SHAMING IN INDIA

RUBINA’S RADAR

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, a former political journalist and editor of The Asian Age, is currently in Nigeria, Africa on a business strip, I mean trip. Akbar’s editorial chamber of sexual secrets has flooded the news belts, which ironically, he once controlled. That he tormented women beyond human comprehension, an unabated abuse of his power and gender, in and out of his newsroom for decades, has been brought to light and recounted by journalists Priya Ramani and Ghazala Wahab and many others who are coming forward with their sexual predation stories at work. It hasn’t shocked the men (because they always know) as much as it has the women reading these bone-chilling accounts of sexual perversions and life-altering acts. The Indian government hasn’t yet issued an official statement on Akbar or on the very pertinent and pressing issue of women (and men) being sexually harassed in the work place since the stories broke.

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MJ Akbar | Credit Unknown

A deafening silence is rather typical in our country wherein conditioned, controlled and cautious responses to things that really matter are the norm. Akbar’s grave transgressions as an editor were definitely not a secret when he was appointed minister, but yet he was given governmental charge. Akbar’s editorial harem stories are restricted to making headlines for now but I sincerely hope they don’t get relegated to just that. Corrective, legal action must be taken by the Indian government. An exposé of Akbar’s encounters of the sordid kind is not going to be enough – what happens after by means of unbiased investigations is what will set the tone for all Indians in the future. This is what’s wrong with our Indian sensibilities – we get all amped up about an issue and join conversations online and offline, but then, the momentum peters out. Why? Sexually harassing and tormenting women, or men or anyone, of any gender, race, caste, colour and religion at work or play is NOT OK and this has to stop now.

It is equally disturbing to think that we live in an India that allows a famous figure, a Bollywood one at that, with a well-entrenched public imagery based on celluloid histrionics, far removed from reality, to vilify a man’s believability in a trice. On October 10, 2018, the Bombay High Court quashed the charges levelled against industrialist Ness Wadia by Bollywood actor Preity Zinta with an in-chamber hearing before a division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre in Mumbai.

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Ness Wadia | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The case involved an altercation the former lovers had at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium whilst their co-owned IPL team, Kings XI Punjab was at play on May 30, 2014. Visits to the Marine Drive police station by Zinta to lodge an FIR against Wadia, a letter to the then police commissioner of Mumbai, Rakesh Maria, stating: “I (Zinta) just want him (Wadia) to be kept away from me so I can live in peace, otherwise one unfortunate day, in a fit of rage, he will kill me and that really scares me,” Facebook posts by her made for sensational headlines, believed all too easy by the country’s populace that vicariously feeds off Bollywood stars’ lives. After such a strongly worded statement to the Mumbai police, one would think Zinta would seek the fastest exit from such a “scary” situation with a court verdict on the case, but it dragged on for four years, and not because of the oft-criticised speed of the Indian judicial system most definitely. Since 2014, it was a case-in-progress, during which Wadia was judged in public for alleged charges that never got off the media carousel, till he was cleared by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday. Can the public defamation, mockery and well-documented humiliation endured during this period ever be quantified in the same measure? I would think not as the internet lives on forever. Not to undermine anyone’s truth here, but does a more visible celebrity’s truth make it the absolute truth?

The current climate in the world is all about speaking your truth, but I fear that’s turning into a dangerous social media sport, an extreme one at that – a name and fame shaming game. The face and voice of India’s Me Too movement, Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta’s claims of sexual harassment by a senior actor, Nana Patekar in 2008 are being questioned just because she’s vociferously speaking up about it a decade later. Not that she hadn’t reported it to the authorities in 2008 to no avail. As is writer and director Vinta Nanda’s horrific account of being brutalised by actor Alok Nath on Facebook being mocked for her intentions, which is shocking to say the least. Patekar is more famous than Dutta as is Nath versus Nanda and that is where lies the real perpetrator – the fame scale. The blinding imagery of the bigger celebrity in such situations dominates the conversation, even to the extent of determining its outcome, undermining the reality of the lesser famous person in the fray, which is what is happening to Dutta, Nanda and everyone who is outing their perpetrators. It is their choice to speak when, how and about what they want; it’s a fundamental human right. There’s nothing extra about that.

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Tanushree Dutta | Instagram

Why is Dutta’s authenticity of being sexually harassed by men at her work place – a film set – the very means to her livelihood and chosen career path, questionable but Zinta’s stadium fracas with Wadia and her subsequent allegations against him in 2014 are not? Could it be because Dutta’s celebrity is less than Zinta’s, not that Zinta holds any ranking in Bollywood’s top order today? Or that Dutta speaks firmly and consistently, without intimidating media persons? Or because Zinta’s verbosity was more entertaining than Wadia’s passive quietude? Not that Dutta’s case is anywhere similar to Zinta’s, but it does make the visible fame game very questionable, albeit not the issues raised. Dutta lost her career because of Patekar’s gender power play at work and had to reluctantly move to the United States. As author and columnist Shobhaa De rightly said, “I believe Tanushree. She’s not a commodity that comes with an expiry date. There is no expiry date to speak your mind. It is her individual right to speak up, as it is everyone’s else’s too. And I truly think everyone, be it a famous person who has a platform or not, can and should condemn assault.”

How does a version of what happens, or happened to a person, become the holy truth, or not, that defies all legalese and the laws of the land against the other? Elementally, anyone can “post a truth” at any time and take anyone down in this digitally-powered world today and that is not comforting at all. And, if you’re in the million-plus followers club, paid or unpaid, it is a digital assassination of the person that is being mentioned in the post, the repercussions of which are irrevocably damaging and fatal. Worse still, if the person mentioned is not on social media, then they’re damned before they even have a chance to grasp the situation and speak in their defence. And that’s wretchedly unfair. They should be heard, and not vilified instantaneously by one-dimensional versions on social feeds. But that’s tragically lost in the cacophonous web of “whoever is the loudest and more visible face wins”.

To relay and report voices in the media is as important as the material those very voices choose to put out on social platforms, without any investigations on anyone’s part, including the authorities, save the lone voice letting it all out. By the time investigations come about, it’s already too late to do any kind of damage control for the other person, given everyone loves a story more than the truth today. Access to social media should not turn it into an armed weapon of human destruction by the user or make it an accomplice in their digital crimes and vendettas. That is so very wrong for victims who have but that voice to help them speak up, which is what is happening today. It’s not just about the Me Too movement worldwide, but all aspects of a tell-all in today’s digital era spiralling out of control, leaving an irreversible trail of hashtag insta-deaths. In a world that’s still struggling to drink responsibly, is it too much to tell our truths honourably?

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

I’m Not Here To Push Myself, But The Causes I Have, Says Industrialist Ness Wadia

Industrialist Ness Wadia, scion of India’s most illustrious business company, the Wadia Group, has never been one to court fame or celebrity, but somehow, headlines chase him relentlessly, turning him into India’s most recognized and “selfied-with” face in the corporate world. But behind the suit and corporate armor, is a man with a zealous philanthropic drive. Not one to talk about it though, Ness is an active force in the Wadia Group’s charitable ventures, one of them being the Little Hearts Marathon that took place on Sunday. “What a glorious way to wake up on a beautiful Sunday morning, with the pure and unparalleled energy of 12,000 kids running the marathon!” exclaims Wadia as he flags off the marathon with the Health Minister of Maharashtra, Dr Deepak Sawant, Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospitals and Aditya Thackeray of the Yuva Sena.

Rubina A Khan in conversation with industrialist Ness Wadia for DNA:

How did the idea of the Little Hearts Marathon come about?
The concept was that we wanted to help kids with cardiac ailments and to promote awareness on that front as a lot of kids suffer from cardiac problems. We found out that a lot of hospitals were not looking into children’s cardiac care so the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children (BJWHC) tied up with the Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust and formed a Cardiac Unit to help kids with cardiac afflictions. Last year, Salman Khan flagged off the first edition of the Little Hearts Marathon, with 10,000 kids participating and this year, our second marathon, we had 12,000 kids! We are planning to take it across India and other parts of Maharashtra as well to raise funds for setting up a cardiac center at BJWHC to reduce the costs and waiting time for cardiac surgeries in our community.

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Ness Wadia at the second edition of the Little Hearts Marathon 2015

Lots of marching bands, cadet corps, quite a spectacular show first thing in the morning… how do you involve these schools and their kids?
This is all voluntary work on behalf of the schools and the children, as this is a charitable organization and everything is pro bono – it’s children helping other children. Isn’t that amazing? All the staff working here are all from the Wadia Hospital, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Schools. It’s all Corporate Social Responsibility. We treat thousands of kids a year and last year was special as we treated a set of conjoined twins Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar who are now well and doing so well. This is one of the most important joys in my life. I was here most part of Diwali last year and spent it with all the kids. Spending time with them brings you to reality and makes you realise what life is about and makes you appreciate what you have and more importantly, what we, as a whole, need to give to help develop our society.

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Dr Minnie Bodhanwala and Ness Wadia with conjoined twins, Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar

From my perspective, the Wadia hospitals have been around for 86 years and we are looking to renovate and take on various expansions. We don’t publicise the Wadia Hospitals, we never have, now we are beginning to. Apart from anything, it helps with CSR and but I simply love doing it and I want to spread the awareness. Our goal is to have possibly, charitable hospitals across India, as opposed to hospitals that earn money; we have enough businesses that earn money. We do change lives here. My plea to anyone who reads this and anyone who hears about this, even if it is one rupee, please, just donate. There are lot of people are more interested in the glamour and the sensational lifestyle aspect or what one’s doing in their lives, but the work which one does in the Wadia Group has always been very low key, the family has always been low key, we are not here to blow our own trumpet and tell people what we have done and how we’ve done it and how much money we have. We are simple people. The perception is not, unfortunately. We have been involved in the building of India and we will continue to be involved in the building of India. And honestly, I am not here to push myself, but the causes I have.

Do these children feel like yours at some point given you spend time, follow their progress charts and are so involved in their lives?
I don’t know if they feel like mine, but they inspire me more to do more. It keeps me going. There’s so much to do. We have the hospital website – http://wadiahospitals.org where you can donate and help. In fact we had an argument about the amount as I firmly believe you cannot put a minimum on a donation! A man wants to put one rupee into a box, let him put it. Let him choose.

Are you looking forward to the eighth season of the IPL this year?
Sure! We (Kings XI Punjab) want to win this year. We have a great bunch of players and it feels like a good season.

This feature first appeared in DNA on 08 February, 2015

©Rubina A Khan 2015