Dubai: Veena Rao, the editor and publisher of the Atlanta, Georgia-based NRI Pulse, who was recognised by the Limca Book of Records as the first non-resident Indian woman to edit and publish a newspaper outside India, was a resident of Dubai for several years.
Rao launched the print edition of NRI Pulse in 2006 and today it has become the one of the primary sources of news for Indian-Americans in the region.
In nearly four years of its existence in print format, NRI Pulse has grown to become a household name in Georgia. It was launched as an online magazine in 2004.
In an internet chat Rao said: "I saw the need for a news-oriented publication in the southeast region of the US. The market then was full of feature magazines. Some of them were, and continue to do a good job. But I felt that Indian-Americans were not being represented strongly enough. There was not one publication that ‘made news' out of the latest developments within the community and not one effective way for organisations and individuals to get the word out.
"The objective of NRI Pulse is to provide a voice for the Indian-American community in the US. Our job is to inform readers about happenings in the US and in the local community. We also pride ourselves in being the only media in the region to talk about issues that affect our everyday lives," Rao added.
When asked what motivated her to be in Journalism, Rao said, "I was very quiet as a child. Quiet at home, and quiet at school. Writing fiction became my way of expressing myself. By the age of 12, I wrote mystery novels during school lunch break that were modelled on the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books that I read in those days. My classmates would make it a point to read the daily updates, and that fuelled my confidence in writing.
"By the time I was in college, I had graduated to contributing stories and non-fiction articles to Indian magazines such as Women's Era and Femina.
"But for all the amateur writing I did, I had no clue what career path I would choose. I ended up with a post-graduate degree in Economics from the famed Fergusson College in Pune, India. It was during the two transformative years of my postgraduate studies that I got really interested in current affairs. Those were the years when we, a very idealistic clique of friends, motivated each other to read, think, discuss and analyse all things ‘in the news'.
"Getting into a journalism institute seemed like an attractive next step because it did not seem to me like I had skills for any other career! I ended up working at the news desk of Indian Express for several years." Rao has a diploma in Journalism and Communication from the Pune-based Symbiosis International University.
It hasn't been an easy ride for Rao. She said, "NRI Pulse is a household name here [Atlanta] today. But like with any other business, our newspaper has also had its share of obstacles. While the response from readers has always been overwhelming, there have been tough times with getting advertisements, or with getting payment from advertisers. That is one thing about our community. We are hardworking, resilient, successful, but we will not support our own cause unless there is something to gain from it for ourselves. I have had innumerable requests for partnerships from wealthy, successful community members. But few will support the community newspaper unless there is something to be gained out of it. Miraculously, we have always bounced back from the brink.
"When I first started the paper in 2006, it was challenging to fill my SUV up to the roof with copies, and go from point to point with a map in my hand, trying to set up distribution points for the paper. It took me ages to find some of the spots, and several days each month to distribute.
"I don't know if I am the first Indian newspaper delivery girl as well!
"However, the biggest challenge has been to keep the paper afloat through the worst recession we've had since the 1930s. Every week, there's news of a major newspaper or magazine folding up! Certain months have been tough. But I am positive the worst is over."
Who are the people who have inspired Rao? "I am inspired by stories of everyday people who battle odds to achieve balance in their lives. I admire everyday people who have a magnanimous heart and will step beyond their means to help somebody in need. To me, that's what living a full life is all about.
"My dad, who passed away last year, always had big hopes from me. He was incredibly proud of what I did. In several ways, daddy's little girl is always, subconsciously, trying to make him proud. In that sense, he is my inspiration to forge ahead in my career."
Dubai an inspiration
Dubai has been a motivating factor for Veena Rao. She said: "I moved to Dubai in 1992 with my husband. We lived in Deira, off Al Rigga Street, for several years, until we moved to the US in 2001. My son went to Dubai Gem School. Even though I was on a sabbatical from work during the period I lived there, it was my first exposure to a multi-cultural, multi-national environment. I believe that Dubai moulded my outlook towards life, and helped expand my thinking.
"One of the joys of life there was to read Gulf News from beginning to the end every morning. I could get all the news from India, even though I was away from home. My experience of staying connected with home through the newspapers in Dubai has been my motivating factor in trying something similar here in the US.
"Dubai evokes many fond memories. Walking by the Corniche with my toddler son, gorging on shawarma, shopping at City Center [Carrefour used to be hypermarket in those days]. I still miss Dubai and look forward to visiting my sister and her family there soon who stay in Dubai."