'I’m so happy my art is helping needy people'
Minakhee Mishra, 39, is based in Karama, Dubai
Putting down her copy of Friday, Minakhee Mishra was in tears. “It was one of the most moving stories I’d ever read,” the artist remembers.
She is referring to a feature [May 31, 2013] dealing with Narayanan Krishnan, a chef in a five-star hotel in Chenai, India, who quit his job to feed and care for mentally ill people who were living on the streets of Madurai, in southern India.
“In some ways the story was my tipping point,” she says. “I’d always wanted to do my bit for society, but I didn’t know how to go about it. This story shocked me into action.”
Mother-of-two Minakhee decided to do a series of paintings and then auction them off and give the proceeds to charity.
“I am an ardent reader of Friday and have been for the past nine years,” she explains. “I find the Making a Difference section especially motivating – it may sound like a cliché but those stories really do inspire people to do something for others.” A talented artist, who has held several exhibitions of her work in Dubai, Minakhee started on a set of still life paintings.
“I wanted to use art to raise money to help needy people such as Syrian refugees or low-paid workers in the UAE so they could buy some gifts for their families back home, pay for their children’s education or for specialist medical treatment for those who required it.
“After reading that moving article I spoke to a few friends of mine who volunteer for charities and told them what I was planning to do. They all encouraged me to get going. They were sure that my initiative would be a success.”
Minakhee participated in group shows at the Ahmedia Gallery in Deira for charity, and also exhibited her work at a pre-event for a concert by well-known Indian musician Pandit Jasraj.
“At another charity auction to raise funds for Syrian victims, two of my paintings were sold for Dh2,500 each,” says Minakhee. “It felt just great to contribute to the cause. I have to thank Friday for motivating me.”
“I also participated in a live painting session at the Street Night Art event at Al Quoz in January to help raise money for poor Indian workers in Dubai. All the artists who participated painted on the 2x2m installation that was put up for auction,” she adds.
“It was while I was participating in such events that I realised that one can help the less fortunate in so many different ways.
“I don’t know how many people I have helped through the sale of my paintings, but if it is even one family then I am happy.”
'We were inspired to go green'
The Mathew family, based in Sharjah
Asha Mathew’s children – Andrew, 10, and three-year-old Andrea, were thrilled as they held a Hawksbill turtle. They had been keen to do something to help turtles and the environment ever since they’d read ‘The Great Turtle Race’ in Friday (June 1, 2012).
“Of all the articles it was the one that totally inspired my son, Andrew,” says Asha, a teacher at the Delhi Private School in Sharjah.
Now a grade 8 student at the same school, Andrew had been fascinated to read how endangered turtles were being tagged and released into the ocean to help track their migratory route. Wanting to help, he wrote to David Robinson, the aquarium operations manager at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, asking if he could watch as the turtles were released.
Impressed by the little boy’s enthusiasm, David invited Andrew and his family to release a Hawksbill turtle at the race. “It was a fantastic day,’’ says Asha. “We were excited to be part of a team that was helping protect turtles by rehabilitating them and releasing them into the sea.”
And with that, a desire to make a difference to the environment took off – all inspired by Friday.
“I’ve always read Gulf News and then Friday as I was born and grew up here,” says Asha, 37. “I have been reading Friday since the very first issue. The stories and articles have inspired all of us at home, including my parents, who always encouraged us to be environmentally conscious and responsible. My mother used to say ‘Change first, and then change the world’. My husband, Boby Mathew, 42, also grew up here, reading the magazine, and I have always looked for opportunities that would enable us as a family to help conservation.”
And the message definitely got through to their children. Inspired by the turtle release, Andrew wrote a letter to the Lost Chambers Aquarium after a Spotted Eagle Ray was born at Atlantis, The Palm.
The birds are listed as a near-threatened species and this birth is believed to be only the second time that the species has successfully bred in a controlled environment.
“He became a huge lover of wildlife and wanted to learn more about the eagle ray,” says Asha.
The Mathews were invited to visit and feed the baby ray at the Atlantis Fish Hospital. “Andrew was super-excited to get the invitation and couldn’t wait to set off to see the ray,” Asha says. “He spent hours talking to the carers and asking questions about the marine life.”
It’s not just animals that the family are keen on saving – they were inspired by a Friday story on recycling, too. When the magazine carried a fashion shoot on models sporting garments made from recyclable materials, a month later Asha put what she’d seen to good use at a local fashion show. She entered both of her children in the Mirdif Trashion Show. Andrea wore a gown made out of plastic bags, while Andrew showed off an Eco-Warrior suit made from cardboard.
“It was an edutainment event – the kids were having fun while also making a strong statement on the importance of protecting the environment and respecting the planet… One of the best things about all the activities was that there was so much fun involved while they were learning things. I think that’s what Friday magazine is all about,” says Asha.
So, what next? “We are waiting for the next issue of Friday!” says Asha.
'Friday made me a prize winner'
Hannah Joji, 46, is based in Karama, Dubai
Hannah Joji doesn’t care what is on the front cover of Friday every week - because she always flips straight to the back half to find the recipes. And before she’s even finished devouring the food pages, the 46-year-old mother of two is on her feet heading to the kitchen to try out the latest Friday dishes.
“Food and all things culinary are my passion,” says the Dubai-based homemaker. “It is the first section I read while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning. The recipes are great and after having made them every week for years I decided I was good enough to enter some local cookery competitions. I’ve even won some prizes – and it’s all thanks to Friday!”
Hannah’s most memorable culinary moment was winning a family trip to Madrid. “I’d participated in a cookery contest conducted by The Dubai Mall in 2010,” she says. “I was confident I would win because I’d prepared several recipes published in Friday, which were all loved by my family.
“The win helped me in other ways as well because while in Madrid I learnt how to make a few Spanish dishes like gazpacho, tapas, paella and Spanish omelettes.”
Hannah says she has participated in several other live cooking competitions in Dubai and her home country of India. “I’m well-versed in Asian and Continental cuisines, plus I’ve the experience of having prepared so many dishes from Friday’s pages,” she says. “The tips given by Domestic Diva Silvena Rowe have also helped me a great deal to learn more about food and the intricacies of cooking.”
More recently, Hannah has been trying out recipes made by TV show Foodshala chefs – Friday’s own Alexio Pasquali and Akshay Nayyar.
“All those great chefs inspired me to start the Dubai Culinary Group on Facebook where foodies can share their recipes and food pictures,” she says.
Hannah also has a treasure trove of recipes cut out from past issues. “I’ve collected them all in a file, which I enjoy referring to every once in a while when I have some time. Quite often, I give the recipes a twist and share them with my foodie friends. To me, cooking is an art and a talent, and a huge stress-reliever.”