Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Nishika Patel as part of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.
Nishika Patel is a UK-based journalist who has lived and worked in London, Hong Kong and Mumbai over her 14-year career. As Founder of a new children’s magazine ‘Koolfi Club’, she aims to connect seven to 12-year-olds with India, its culture and people, in a fresh and exciting way. She tells Reena about starting a business during the pandemic with three children and her aim to add a diverse voice to children’s publishing.
What inspired you to start the ‘Koolfi Club’?
Last year my son started asking me lots of questions about India and where his grandparents grew up. When I started to look for books and magazines on the subject, I struggled to find much that would capture his interest.
I realised that much hadn’t changed from my own childhood. Growing up in an extended Gujarati family and enjoying all the festivals and traditions, I remember wanting to connect and understand more about my culture and heritage, including the stories and meanings behind things. Plus, history was always a subject I loved at school and I naturally wanted to know more about Indian history. But there weren’t good resources available and I didn’t hear about it through the mainstream media or education.
So early last year I thought wouldn’t it be a great idea if I used my experience as a journalist and time in Mumbai to create something for children. I don’t want children to miss out on learning more about such an important part of who they are. Children also need to see their experience and characters like themselves reflected in books and magazines. Research shows it helps raise confident, self-aware children.
In each issue of the magazine, fun characters take children through India’s history, festivals, wildlife, cities and inspiring people. There are also lots of hands-on activities, a recipe and a short story too.
The aim is to provide parents and families with a quality, accessible educational resource and I hope it will used by schools in the future too as children continue to learn about each other’s cultures.
What do you think has been the most profound realisation or discovery about yourself over the last few years?
That it’s never too late to take risks, adapt and change direction. I became a journalist because I was passionate about finding out the truth and giving a voice to people from all walks of life. After I took a career break from a fast-paced newsroom, I didn’t know how I was ever going to return to journalism. The hours aren’t always suited to life with a young family.
I felt like I had lost part of my identity and wondered if “being mum” was going to define me now. But taking inspiration from some wonderful women around me who have managed to strike a balance, I realised that there’s always a way to make things work. So, I decided to redefine my purpose and combine my passion for writing and learning with educating children about India.
What have been your career highlights?
I’ve had a really varied career working for newspapers and magazines in the UK, Hong Kong and Mumbai, so I am fortunate to have had many great experiences. At the start of my career, as a local newspaper reporter in Yorkshire I got to interview the legendary Amitabh Bachchan for the IIFA Awards. In Hong Kong, I covered the stories around the Beijing Olympics and political developments in mainland China. And in Mumbai, I was a Senior Correspondent for ‘India Today’ magazine where I reported on the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Mumbai was a fascinating city to work in as a journalist because it’s a gritty, fast-paced city, full of extremes. It was also really interesting to report on development stories for ‘The Guardian’ covering areas like organic farming, olive production and slum redevelopment. When I returned to London, I went back to a busy newsroom at ‘Sky News’, where I worked on the big breaking stories of the day for their website.
What is the one lesson or words of wisdom that you try to live your life by that you would recommend to the next generation?
It would be to never lose your natural curiosity to discover and learn new things. I really encourage my children to have a love of learning attitude and remind them that education is not limited to the classroom. I think it’s important not to forget this when we become adults.
Perseverance is another one. One of my favourite quotes is by Martin Luther King Jr: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.