An Indian Story – Aligning Gems, Words
‘Wordsmith’ – I like the feel of the word, its heft. It has echoes of blacksmith, silversmith, goldsmith – someone hardy and dedicated, working with raw material over fire, shaping it and transforming it into something which didn’t exist before.
My father was a jeweler in Lahore, Sind, in undivided India. Every day he and his artisans worked with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, grading, selecting and setting them in fabulous ornaments of gold for housewives, sweethearts and brides-to-be.
In the bloody Partition of 1947, he fled with his family as a refugee to Delhi with nothing – and started all over again. By the time he died, his shop in Connaught Place, Girdhari Lal Jewelers, was the gold standard for Delhites, and its motto was ‘Reputation.’ Even now, decades later, I meet people who remember his commitment to quality.
I wouldn’t know how to grade diamonds or appraise gold. I’m an aspiring wordsmith and my gems are words – many sizes, many colors, and cheaper by the dozen:words shared with me by people, words pulled out of dreams, out of memory, out of nothing. I polish and shape, arrange and rearrange, juxtaposing them to tell a billion stories.
Sometimes, when they are aligned perfectly, I get as much pleasure as my father did from creating those jeweled baubles.
Lavina Melwani – Writing from India, Hong Kong, Africa, New York…
LAVINA MELWANI is a New York based writer who has lived in India, Africa and Hong Kong. She has written for an eclectic bunch of publications including the Hindu, Outlook, India Today, The Wall Street Journal, Worth, Newsday, Asia Inc., Hong Kong Standard, The Hindustan Times, Art and Antiques, The Week, Beliefnet, Winds – the Japan Airlines in-flight magazine, Gafencu, the Shanghai-based lifestyle magazine, Bride’s, AM New York, Hinduism Today, Tehelka and The Indian Express.
While living in Kinshasa, Republic du Zaire in Africa, she also wrote a piece on the US Marines based there for Leatherneck, the American Marine magazine.
She currently blogs for the Smithsonian’s HomeSpun Indian American Project.
Wrote monthly columns, Foreign Letter, in The Hindustan Times, and A New York Minute for India Today.
Her column, Lassi with Lavina, appeared in the North American edition of The Indian Express.
·Features on food, travel, trends and people for lifestyle and travel magazines including Hi!, Travel Plus, Tatler, in-flight magazines Namaskar, Corporate, Swagat, Jetwings, and Inside Outside, which is India’s leading design magazine. Some of the articles have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, Gujarati and Hindi.
·Won seven IPPIES and two New America awards for her 5000-word feature stories.
·Lavina has written over 70 stories for Newsday, covering the South Asian beat on everything from immigrant struggles to Indian sweets.
·Article about collectors of South Asian art appeared in the Asia issue of Art and Antiques which won the Folio Award for Editorial Excellence in 2000.
·Outstanding Achievement Award from the South Asian Women’s Collective in 2000 and was nominated for the South Asian Media Award 2005.
2009 Award for journalism from the Association of Indians in America.
2010 Community Service award from the County Executive, Nassau County, LI
2010 Panelist ‘Online News: How To Do It Better’ conference for ethnic media at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
2012 Excellence in Journalism award from the IndianAmerican Forum
Co-founder, past president and board member of Children’s Hope India www.childrenshopeindia.org , a NY non-profit organization which initiates health and education projects in India.
·Member of South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA)
Member of The Newswomen’s Club of New York.