Monthly Archives: November 2013

No one can take Goa out of me: Schubert Fernandes

This week, I got a chance to interview the youngest Sr. VP at MSLGROUP India. Well, he’s a Goan, of course! Here goes the link to the story that appeared in The Goan on Saturday. And below is the complete unedited interview.


When did you leave Goa and why?
After I completed my graduation in 1998, I started looking for a fulltime job. Until then, I used to engage myself with some part-time gigs that were mostly related to music. In 2000, I started working with an advertising agency in Goa and would also compere for parties, drum with bands in hotels side-by-side. Despite having a fulltime job and managing other gigs, my mother wasn’t convinced enough. So she was very keen on packing me off to Bombay. According to her, I was to find my “proper” job in this city.

What brought you to Bombay?
So when I came (more like when I was sent) to Bombay, I put up with my older brother at a club in Byculla. Since I was supposed to enrol myself to a one-year course at Xavier Institute of Communication (XIC), my mother sent me with some money to answer the exam. But I couldn’t imagine leaving Goa. So I faked the interview, said I didn’t get through, packed my bag and went back home. I stayed in Goa for a year, but then my mother sent me back to Bombay. However, this time around, I didn’t want to take an opportunity for granted. Unlike the previous year, I gave the interview at XIC, and because I’m talkative, my professor advised me to take up Public Relations.

Did you always want to become a publicist? If yes, why? If no, what were your career plans?
All along, I’ve been an average kid. If I passed in algebra, I would flunk in geometry. Same was the case with Hindi and Konkani. So I was definitely looking at a career that didn’t involve mathematics or logic. And the only option was advertising. Much later, I realised this field isn’t a cakewalk.

How long have you been working for?
In Mumbai, I’ve been working for 14 years. In Goa, I started working when I was already in college part time and then a year of fulltime.

With which company did you start your career?
After completing my post-graduation course at XIC, I kick-started my all-new career with a Public Relations company called Hanmer & partners (Now MSLGROUP India) as a trainee. I lingered for four years before I decided to switch sides. I joined Asian Paints and managed corporate communication for two years. And then, like a thorough Goan, I did a year stint in Dubai in the same field. Dubai wasn’t challenging. All the action, without a second thought, was in Bombay, in India. So before it was too late, I returned to this city and joined Hanmer & Partners once again, but this time, I joined as a Principal Consultant.

When I first came to Bombay in 2000, no one took me seriously. Why you ask? Because I was from Goa. They would always me questions related to how long I sleep, how much feni I drank every day. I am a peace-loving guy, so I didn’t react, but I wanted to reassure everyone that we Goans can be great at our work.

From a Principal Consultant, in 2008, I was promoted to an Associate Vice Presidents designation. In 2010, I jumped the rung and took the title of Vice President. This year, I became a Sr. Vice President.

What does your current job profile include?
My area of specialization is Corporate. Apart from this I also look after the offices in Delhi and Kolkata along with my team in Bombay. Next year, my focus is going to be in developing a strategic consulting specialisation for the company. This would include public affairs, crisis management etc.

Now I’m doing corporate, but I have also done PR for telecom, B2B, real estate, agriculture and power.

Along with this, I also deliver lectures at XIC.

What according to you led you towards success?
I don’t think I’m successful yet, but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved. I’ve given 11 years to MSLGROUP. It’s important to be loyal and a consistent perform couple with patience. Today, everyone wants to be a genius in a day. We need to allow the organisation to recognize us and give us back what we deserve.

Through your entire career, what did you get right and what did you get wrong?
I believe that there is no shortcut to success. All along, only hardwork and passion guided me. Without passion, we can achieve very little. This is the thinking that has always kept me in good light. Also, I don’t have too many expectations from life and I think this is what keeps me satisfied.

Would you also consider this your strengths?
I am an extremely passionate person, and that’s my root strength. Apart from this, when I look back at my career, I’m very content in life. My ambitions are very limited. When you live life and expect less, we’re always on the upper side of being happy.

What are the challenges you face as a publicist? What the toughest task about being a publicist?
Initially, coming from Goa to Bombay by itself was a great challenge! Keeping up with the pace was the biggest challenge. It’s also the kind of exposure deficit a Goan would experience when s/he comes to a city like this. More often than not, I would find myself trapped in an “what is this? What is that?” spot. Before I came to Bombay, I would assume that the economy is measured as per the number of fish a fisherwoman gives in a vantto.

Would you ever consider going back to Goa and starting something of your own? Why?
Since I’ve been in Bombay for over a decade, I’ve adapted to this pace and lifestyle. If Goa can accommodate this way of life, I might go back, but not before the next 10 years.

What does your family have to say about you?
Whenever I go to Goa for holidays, my family is not quite aware of what I do. They don’t know me as a person any longer. I am definitely not the same person I was when I left home. This city has changed me for the good. Whenever I go to Goa, it’s just for a weekend and for Christmas. They only see the causal person I am, and not the actual Schubert I am when I am at work.

If you weren’t a publicist, what would you be?
I’d be in show business. Because that’s always been my first love. I would love to be playing for a band, doing shows, putting together concerts, conceptualising theme parties, trying new forms of art and entertainment, maybe.

Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
Ummm.. I will definitely still be in Bombay or some office in Asia, doing what I’m known to do best.

What according to you leads to many Goans leaving Goa?
I don’t think too many people consider Bombay as an option. Many of us are comfortable with the limited options Goa provides and the remaining pursue professional studies and then go where destiny takes them. There are very few who think of coming to Bombay, and slogging it out. I think it takes courage to leave Goa for a city like Bombay. I don’t think people in Goa know what people in Bombay do. When I go to Goa, I only say I’m into advertising. A lot of my relatives don’t understand what exactly I do.

I love Goa, wherever I go, no one can take out Goa from me. I always look forward to my doctor’s visits to Goa. I want my bowl of sausages and kaalchi kodi sitting on the breakfast table, eagerly waiting for me to arrive. And not forgetting a huge mug of black coffee. I miss rose omelette a lot! I wish someone could make these in Bombay as well.

It’s also important to get into a good organisation. It acts as a huge support system when you need to adjust in this place. I love it when people call me a paowala,

And if you’re another Goan in Bombay, Schubert has a message for you: “You guys are doing the right thing. Hang in here.”

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Marrying India with Malaysia through Food

The Finest taste of Malaysia has been brought to Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel. Currently, many of us are heading to the Renaissance to enjoy the Malaysian Food Festival in Powai. The hotel is temporarily housing Chefs Ridzuan and Rhap from Malaysia who hold a rich gourmet experience. Chef Ridzuan holds his expertise in Malay and western dishes, and Chef Rhap is a lady who is known for being a food adventurer is an expert of Asian (Halal) and Malay dishes. While Chef Ridzuan is skilled in handling buffet cold kitchen dishes, Chef Rhap is more skillful in handling buffet hot kitchen dishes.


A quick interview with the chefs:

How would you describe authentic Malaysian food?
People often ask me what Malaysian food is like, and I’ve found that it’s not as easy to describe as I would have thought. I usually have to explain that Malaysia largely consists of the Malays, Chinese and Indians – and we each have our own types of food. This is an overgeneralization, but I find that Malays are fond of using coconut milk in their food, the Chinese deep fry as many foods as possible, whilst the Indians love ghee. But as I said, this is me being generalised, and there is obviously more to each cuisine that what I have mentioned above.
But of course, it’s not just these foods that make up the Malaysian food culture. There is a little (or big) something called hawker food. Hawker food is basically food you get from roadside stalls, and are usually fairly inexpensive.

Have you altered any recipes to suit the India palate?
Malaysian Indian cuisine of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia is similar to its roots in India, especially South India although there are many notable foods with influences from North India the spices remains the same but some special ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime etc. makes the difference.

How long is yours and Chef Ridzuan’s stay in India? And what do you plan to accomplish within this time?
We are here till the dates of the promotion that is from November 14th – 24th, 2013. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase the Malay cuisines to the Indian guests and to learn a thing or two about Indian food culture and the people. This is also our first visit to the city of Mumbai, so we are excited to also see and explore in our free time and take back fond memories of its people and the place.

Is there anything you specifically like about Indian cuisine?
Chef Rhap: Indian food is very dynamic, robust, flavorsome. I especially like the vegetarian Indian food. There is a variety of fresh vegetables in India, and they all are prepared in unique and varying styles. It’s fascinating to see such variety within the Indian food from region to region.
Chef Ridzuan: I really enjoy Indian food. I like the spice and tanginess used in most curries. I also enjoy the vast assortment of fresh bread (roti, naans etc) that compliment the curries. I have tried out the famous street food specialties such as bhel, paani puri and found it extremely fascinating and pleasantly unusual to our taste buds. I have a sweet tooth so really like the Indian sweet dishes as well. We tried the food at the Indian restaurant – Nawab Saheb and thoroughly enjoyed the kebabs and curries there.

Why should anyone come to the Malaysian Food Festival at Renaissance?
The festival has a very interactive Zing to it, chefs are always around to help you and customize food as per the guest desire. There are a lot of vegetarian options for the locals and eventually nothing but a genuinely authentic Malaysian food.

What’s your favorite from the buffet you’ve spread for us all?
Chef Rhap: My personal favorite would be the dessert (especially pandan crepes with coconut and jagerry) which brings a meal to a sweet ending with smile on a delighted guest. That’s what make me satisfy as a chef.
Chef Ridzuan: My favourite dish is LAMB KERUTUP. I am very fond of lamb. The use of coconut milk with all the spices infused give it a distinctive taste and aroma. It’s full of flavor, heart and a complete dish by itself.

What’s the one recipe we should taste and why?
The vegetarian tom yum soup it is very home style recipe. It has its own unique and very Asian taste to it not very spicy or tangy but a subtle version.






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Of fish, fisherwomen and life in Goa

This is a replug of my column that appeared in The Goan on Saturday.

Last Friday, one of my Goan hostel friends went over to her brother’s apartment in Dahisar for the weekend. That very evening, I pecked on some vegetarian food in the hostel foyer. On Saturday, I stepped out to meet some friends and treated myself to some delicious Goan style crab curry, bombil (Bombay Duck) fry and rice, of course! Where, you ask? It was at this petite Goan restaurant in Mahim. Sunday came along at its own lousy pace. Hostel served us biryani for lunch and I thought that was it for the week.

Sunday evening, my friend returned with a bag full of food. And mind you, this was not any other food. I bet, only a Goan understands what it’s like to let a day pass without a piece of fish in our plates. This evening, we commenced dinner 15 minutes prior to our usual time. The aim was to relish every morsel, every bite.

One by one, she opened the tiffin boxes that were resting in her bag. The aroma spread across the foyer which tickled other hostel girls’ senses too. Without wasting any time, I dug a table spoon into the crab curry, then into the yummy-looking bombil scramble she’d cooked and finally, I shamelessly took two pieces of fried fish. The last time I saw so much fish was when I was at home in Goa.

For a good 45 minutes, all I did was buried myself under tales of fish and fisherwomen in Goa. Not forgetting, I was relishing every bite of what this dear friend had cooked and brought for me on her way back to the hostel. We shared stories of how fisherwomen arrived at our doorsteps every morning calling out names of fish that grew familiar to our ears. This happened a lot during my childhood in Velim. When I moved to Cuncolim at the age of 10, this changed. If we wanted fish, we would have to take a stroll to the fish market. Even the stench at the market would automatically fade away at the thought of fish.

In Cuncolim, dad had a special fisherwoman he’d walk up to everyday to bag some fish. After he passed away, grandpa and mum continued to purchase fish from the same fisherwoman, Magna. The moment she saw us, she’d start wrapping the fish in paper. She never failed to drop some extra pieces. Once, Magna invited my family over to her place in Ambolim for lunch. It was her parish feast. She promised us a lot of fish to convince us into coming over. We accepted the invite. This was the first time I’d been to a fisherwoman’s house. She cooked the most delicious meal for us on the day. I was surprised to see that my family of five was the only guests. Till date, when I visit Goa, she’ll be the fisherwoman I buy fish from. She never cheats. There’s never a negotiation because the price she quotes is always reasonable.

Something about this dinner reminded me about the relationship we embrace with the fisherwomen in Goa. It’s true that we need fish to complete our meal, and that evening, I had a complete meal.

Image courtesy:

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Interview with Naresh Fernandes

This is the complete interview with Mumbai based journalist Naresh Fernandes on his writing, early days of journalism and he as a Goan. It’s always disappointing when I have a kick-ass interview of almost 2000 words and I need to bring it down to nothing more than 700 words.  Despite the word limit, I submitted a 900 words piece to The Goan, which was brought down to 700 words. Shall share that some time soon too! 🙂 Till then enjoy this…

NareshCongratulations on the release of your second book – City Adrift.
City Adrift has now been in bookstores since the last 10 days. I do have an event Literature Live lined up in November at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) where I plan to launch the book.

What went into choosing City Adrift as the title of your second book?
City Adrift is a part of a series launched by Aleph Book Company that covers six cities in India. I, along with five other authors, were commissioned to write about each city. The core hints are the same, and all the books carry the same title description – a short biography of so-and-so city.

I must add, telling a story about Bombay is nothing less than a daunting task. There are over 300 books about Bombay, and it’s quite intimidating to be commissioned to write something about the city that’s not been written before. After giving it much thought, I anchored on a theme that revolved around land in Bombay.

Why land? I’ve always been fascinated by how the past reflects in the present. For more than three centuries, land (or rather, the lack of it) and soil have remained Bombay’s preoccupations. This is a unique Indian city that has been reclaimed. The Bombay society is assembled. Incentives had to be offered to people from across India to live here to make the city habitable for the East India Company. So I thought it was good to use land as the spine of the book and also to tell the story of Bombay, the drifting city.

How long did the research take to put together the 168 pager? Run us through the kind of research that went into materialising City Adrift.
I was given a year and a half to complete the project. For a good one year, I was only trying to harbour a particular theme. I started writing in January and was through with close to 40000 words by the end of May, this year. The purpose of this book is to make history visible in the context of present Bombay. A lot of land has been encroached, including the caves.

It was a nice form of work. It was a reportage, memoire, personal history and ancient history. It’s always a thrill to tell people stories about the city they live in all their lives.

Last year you released a coffee table book called Taj Mahal Foxtrot. Why did you decide to launch a coffee table book?
I would just call it an oversized book.

During my research on Jazz in Bombay, I gathered a lot of photographs of Jazz bands, musicians etc. So, I wanted to throw all the material to the reader. Pictures tell a story of their own and this was my first and only chance. Along with the book, I also sent along a CD with songs spanning across four decades – from 1927 to 1967.

How would you describe Taj Mahal Foxtrot in a nutshell?
Bombay: The city I know best is a product of different elements, and music is one important element. I wanted to tell a story of Bombay through a certain kind of music that went back to the time this city tried to get nurtured under colonial rulers. The Portuguese brought along church music and the British, military music. This was the introduction of Western music to Mumbai, to India.

The two books you’ve written so far are non-fiction. Would you ever consider writing fiction too?
I have no imagination. I lack imagination in the extreme. Since I don’t have stories of my own, I need to tell other people’s stories.

I always call myself a journalist. Writers have big ideas, I just consider myself a reporter, a journalist.

What about Mumbai fascinates you so much?
All the great global forces can be seen in our backyard – industrialisation, liberalisation, religion etc, And I like to see how all of this affect the lives of my neighbours.

Not to make it controversial, but so you prefer Bombay over Mumbai or is it because both your books chronicle the city’s past?
My friends and I call this city Bombay. If I’m speaking Marathi, I call it Mumbai. Bombay is a colonial name. Mumbai came about after the 1992 riots and when Shiv Sena came to power in Maharashtra in 1995, in partnership with BJP. This is a part of the Sena’s campaign of hate. Though the words Kolkata and Chennai roll easily off my tongue, Mumbai sticks in my craw.

Where did you complete your Education?
I went to St Andrew’s School in Bandra and completed my graduation in Bachelor of Arts from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. I majored in Economics and Sociology. My imagination led me to believe that Economics had a prospect of giving me a career and Sociology would help me know the world.

Fortunately, after my graduation, I signed up for a journalism training programme conducted by The Times of India. This training left an impression on how I think and how I do my craft.

I took up journalism because I couldn’t do anything else. This is one profession that legitimately lets you poke your nose into other people’s business.

I started with TOI in 1990 because I always wanted to write.

Did history ever fascinate you?
Well, I’m interested in how history determines our present. It’s the little cause and effect game I like to play. Sometimes the answers are not all clear, but they are broad markers. History tells us what we are the way we are.

You are currently the editor of Tell us more about the web-newspaper and your role.
My friend Sameer and I have been talking for 10 years about how we can work about the challenges newspapers face. There’s an assumption that politicians are the biggest threat to news publications, but actually it’s the corporates.

We wanted to construct a model that’s independent. will focus more in reportage.

What’s your role at the New York University’s Institute of Public Knowledge? How did you come about getting this?
I am a poesis fellow at the New York University’s Institute of Public Knowledge. I’ve been interested in writing about cities and they had a fellowship programme. It takes me to NY a couple of times for meetings. I get to meet people from different people from different parts of the world and being fed with different views.

What are the key challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
The challenge about writing non-fiction is to keep the reader gripped. In fiction, a writer can alter the plot to make the story more engrossing. In fiction, a writer needs to construct a narrative from reality.

What would you be doing when you’re not reading or writing?
I used to play the piano many, many years ago, but now it’s out of tune, so I sleep. My job is to read, write and talk to people. Often, my leisure feeds into my work.

Which are the authors you look up to or draw inspiration from?
Ramachandra Guha, Amitav Gosh, Kiran Nagarkar, Adam Hochschild, Salman Rushdie and Katharine Boo. Many of these writers have found ways of telling our stories. They’ve influenced me. It’s the writing styles as well as the way ideas are transformed into words.

Were you born and raised in Mumbai?
I was born and raised in Bandra. For some 60 odd years, my family has been living in Bombay. Prior to that, they were in Karachi pre-undivided India where my father was born. It was my great-grandfather who decided to leave Goa during the colonial rule to settle as Karachi-Goans. Much later, my grandparents decided to settle down in Bombay.

How would you describe Naresh Fernandes as a Goan?
I like feni and pork sausages. I am Goan in a large cultural way with a large kinship.

What’s coming next from your desk?
I don’t know. Nothing for now. I don’t have any big ideas. But I’d like it to be something without Bombay in the title. I need to find another theme. 

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