I like to describe myself as an active human being. I am a mum, daughter, journalist, and a wife. I am also a lover of life.
Before the BBC what were you doing?
The BBC has been my professional journey all the way through. Before that, I was at University and I read French and History at Lancaster University. It was a 4-year course. I spent a year abroad as a language assistant in France. I graduated in 1999 and landed a Broadcast Assistant role at BBC Radio 5Live. Nine months later I got promoted to a researcher post. I was there for just under 2 years. Then I got a job at BBC Birmingham as a trainee reporter. That was a long time ago. I have been at the BBC for 19 years now ( laughing)!
What is your day job for people who do not know?
I am the Arts and Culture Correspondent for BBC Midlands Today. I tell stories on TV, radio, digital and online. I am based in Birmingham, but as regional journalists, we travel around the region. We cover Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, West Midlands and a little bit of Gloucestershire. It is a big patch. But I love it!
What are your hobbies, what do you do for fun?
My fun time is with my 6-year-old son. These days it involves acting out superheroes and pretending we can defeat the baddies of this world! Basically, I do what he wants to do. Away from that, I enjoy the outdoors and yoga. Yoga plays a big role in balancing out my mind, especially since my cancer diagnosis. If I need to clear my mind, a walk in the countryside does the trick.
How long have you been married for?
I have been married for 8 years now.
How did you get into the BBC?
I graduated from Lancaster University in 1999. We have a great alumni network. So I left university with a few names to call. One gentleman worked in PR, the others in Press and Media. There were 2 gentlemen on that list that helped me get a foot in the door. One was George Mann, the other was Rupert Allman. They worked at BBC Radio 5 live. They had graduated 10 years before me. I had a talk with them and they invited me to come and have a look around. I took my CV to TV Centre in West London and the next day I was offered a casual contract. That casual contract has lasted 19 years (laughing). The break into the newsroom enabled me to get lots of experience and I have worked my way up the career ladder since day one.
As many people know you had breast cancer, How did you find out?
It was in August 2017, and I was in the shower. I always check myself as I am in tune with my body and have lost friends and family to breast cancer. I felt a lump which turned out to be a cancerous tumour. It was a small pea size lump. I got on the phone to my doctor straightaway and 2 days later I was in. Firstly they thought it could be a cyst as I was young. They referred me to the hospital and within a week I had my biopsy. I was diagnosed on the 4th September with invasive breast cancer in two places. The second cancer was tucked away.
Also, Cancer does not run in your family, does it?
No, it does not. It is a myth that people think that you only get breast cancer if it runs through your family. It does not work that way. I have no history of cancer in my family. The biggest risk factor is that you are a woman and have breasts.
What were your symptoms did you have any before the diagnosis?
Not really. I was tired a lot. We put this down to me being a vegetarian and perhaps being a bit low on iron. I am not sure if that was connected to cancer or not. I had pain down my arm in the months before I found my lump but I thought it was a strain from gym work.
You documented your journey why did you do that?
After my biopsy, I had a spiritual experience. I was up a lot that night and I had my kirtan on to keep me calm. I had a conversation with the universe asking what I should do if this is cancer. Should I go away and quietly fight it or use my public role to help others? As a journalist, I was in a unique position to spread awareness quickly. I wanted to open up the conversation about cancer. Subsequently, when I spoke to some of my friends about my diagnosis many of them said they didn’t check their breasts. This made me want to encourage other women to check themselves. I launched a social media campaign #checkthemout days before my surgery.
The video did show a lot of awareness about Breast Cancer.
I underestimated the impact the first set of films that I published last year would have. A lot of people messaged me. I was also applauded by South Asian women for talking openly about breast cancer. Our communities can still be quite ‘hush hush’ about the subject. The videos had a universal reach. This encouraged me to keep documenting my journey and in October 2018 ( Breast Cancer Awareness month) I published 4 films looking at the different aspects of my journey; The waiting Game of Cancer, my physical recovery, the emotional recovery and the impact it had on my family. As a BBC journalist, I am in a privileged position and can share information using my skills. My main aim is to help women, men, families who are touched by breast cancer. I promised myself I would share my story with honesty.
Were your family and friends supportive?
Yes, they all were. My mother is a nurse and she said if this can help others this is what you should do. My husband was also was very supportive. My films and my campaign became my coping mechanism. I focused on helping others rather than closing in on myself.
How are you feeling within yourself, from how you were back then?
What you saw in the original film I published last year was very raw. It was the night of the diagnosis. I was trying to stay positive but my emotions poured out in the middle of the night. The films that I have made this year track my cancer journey. Along the way, I dipped into dark places. I felt low. I stopped socialising for a bit and even took a break from social media. But I found a way out through counselling at The Breast Cancer Haven in Solihull. I also met some women at The Worcestershire Breast Unit Haven who have become good friends. We have all had breast cancer and can relate to each other.
What has been your biggest challenge since your diagnosis?
It has to be the fatigue. I am usually very active. My husband calls me a machine (laughing), but my batteries need recharging!
What has been your biggest achievement?
It has to be my son Joshua. He is a manifestation our of love. Professionally, what I do now is my biggest achievement. I set out to become a broadcaster and I love it.
Who are your role models?
Sonia Deol, former BBC presenter was one of them. I watched her grow up and listened to her on the radio and thought ‘I can do that’. My teachers were really inspiring and they encouraged me to excel. My youngest Mama Ji Amrik told me to follow my dream into journalism. My mum is amazing. She is a Senior Sister, a working mum and she studied when were all young. Having lots of role models has meant that I can take the best bits from all of them. I can’t name everyone. I have a really happy, supportive extended family. I feel blessed to have a wide network of friends and family who I can turn to for help.
What is next for you?
You will have to wait and see!
When I met Satnam my first thoughts were where does she get her energy from! Satnam was so friendly and open about her journey and how she found the strength to get through her diagnosis. Satnam is such an inspiring woman and she is raising awareness about breast cancer. I now check my breasts after talking to her as I learnt that even if Cancer does not run in your family that does not mean you won’t get it. The fact has stayed with me ever since I met her. I have followed Satnam’s work for a while now. I love that she is so positive and always smiling. Show some love for this incredible woman.
I would describe myself as a funny, down to earth person with a heart of gold. I will always help anyone if there they need any support. I work really hard in life to achieve my goals. I love a challenge. I am a very motivated person and my biggest asset is my smile. I never stop smiling and laughing. Life is too short. I am a very strong woman. I believe what the boys can do girls can do better that is my favourite motto. I am a very happy person.
What is your day job?
At the moment my day job is a mix of personal training clients to life coaching, counselling to teaching classes. I am focusing on my health & fitness job at the moment .
Before the world of fitness what was you doing?
I have always been into my fitness as I started at a young age. I am qualified in law accountancy, life coaching ,counselling and a motivational speaker and so much more. I have 20 years of qualifications under my belt. Difficult to say what I was before fitness as I started so young.
Who are your role models?
My role models are my parents. They taught me to be the best in myself. They showed me to work hard in life. I remember asking my dad that i wanted to go into fitness and my dad said go and show the boys what a girl can do. It took me 20 years but i showed them what a girl could do. Made my family so proud.
How did you get into fitness?
I just loved fitness since I was a young girl. I used to look at the fitness magazines and wanted to be a strong motivational girl in fitness.
You became the first Asian female to break barriers in fitness. Tell more.
I became the 1st UK girl who broke the Asian fitness barriers in UK being in the industry 20 years ago it was an Asian boy thing to do not a girls job. I am so proud what i achieved. It was hard but did it. I was the first Personal trainer to introduce insanity Live to Wolverhampton at a local gym. It came in the Express and Star. It came in the des pardes and then i ended up on K – TV for an interview. I was then offered by own fitness show on K – TV that i do each week.
Have your Friends and Family been supportive over your chosen career?
Yes friends and family have always been very supportive in my career. They know it’s my life and passion. My family are my rock.
You broke the Guinness Book of records. Tell us more.
I broke the Guinness world record with Anthony Joshua and Lucozade Fit water in April this year and 499 other boxercise instructors. I am a boxercise instructor and we were asked if we wanted to be part of the special day. I really enjoyed the day and I was so proud of myself. I never ever thought i would help break a world record with other boxercise instructors. I enjoy a challenge and wanted to be part of it.
You are a Fitness presenter also?
I am a fitness presenter on K – TV Asian show. I like to say thank you to them for giving me this opportunity. I love my job.
So as a personal trainer what do you do?
As a personal trainer my job is to make sure my clients achieve there goals. Myself and my client work as a team. I am life coach and counsellor so I bring all that into my personal training. I want to know how my clients feel, if they have a bad day. It is not just about fitness its about making the client feel amazing inside and the outside. Your clients make the PT when they achieve their goals. I always feel happy and proud when my clients look good.
Is it hard being a Female in Fitness?
Yes it is not easy being female. It is a very competitive area. I enjoy a challenge and try and be the best i can be.
Have you received any negativity?
Yes I received a lot of negativity and still do but I just ignore it. I am a very positive person so I ignore negative comments and negative people.
Do you offer private classes for people who do not want train with others?
Yes I offer private PT or private classes because there are a lot of people who don’t have the confidence to come to a gym. I do home visits. I worked 20 years i have trained celebs, models, newsreader and everyone. As a Persona trainer my job is to cater for everyone.
What else do you have lined up?
I will be a speaker for a women empowerment event being held this year. I feel so honoured and so proud to share the stand with other motivational, inspiring women. I am excited to share my life story with other women to let them know if i can do it, you can. I want to inspire other women to be the best they can.
Any advice you can give to anyone wanting to get into Fitness?
The advice I will give someone who wants to go into fitness is just do it. .Be the best you can be in yourself. Work hard and never give up trying. I am also a mentor for people who want to get into fitness. They can contact me on social media and I will help them achieve there dream.
I would describe myself as being very lucky as I have enjoyed most of my life and have been blessed with a wonderful family and friends. All of this I owe to my Mother Christine Helen Rose Driscoll nee Vacher. My father Dennis Driscoll left home when I was 3 months and so I had a single parent upbringing. My Mum worked to keep us clothed and fed, whilst my grandparents Robert Vacher and Nellie Vacher looked after my Brother Barry and myself. I had a happy childhood in Battersea until I was 11 and then Putney until I was 16 and then Balham. All of South London.
Now being a parent I realise just how much my Mum sacrificed for her children and I will be forever grateful.
Before joining the Met Police, what were you doing before that?
I left Wandsworth School with no qualifications of any note and honestly believed I was going to be a professional footballer with Watford. However, Glandular Fever at the age of 16 finished my footballing career.
Confronted with the fact I had little to offer in the way of qualifications I joined a factory in Putney. It was awful and being bottom of the pack a lesson in life I will never forget.
I started an apprenticeship in plumbing and general building but soon realised I was allergic to some of the materials used building and maintaining houses.
I had very long hair and looked like someone from the Rolling Stones. For many months until I decided I would see the world. I hitchhiked starting at the Watford Gap Service station and visited Norway, Sweden, Germany what was Yugoslavia Greece. Spent several months on the Greek Islands and then hitchhiked back. The journey through Leningrad and Titograd without doubt terrifying.
I also went with a cousin and a friend in an old van to Morocco again a very wonderful experience.
When I returned I realised I had to do something with my life and applied for the Metropolitan Police, they did not like the fact I had been travelling so I joined the London Ambulance Service. It was only meant to be for two years but I enjoyed it so much I stayed for six years until 1979 I joined the police service in London.
Are you London born and bred?
Yes. Battersea until i purchased a house in 1975 in Cheam Surrey.
What made you decide to join the Police Force?
I always wanted to join the police and I cannot explain why. It was most likely the image created by George Dixon. Dixon of Dock Green. I watched it with my Mum.
When you first joined can you remember your first ever job and what the feeling was like?
I can remember hating Hendon. It was geared for 18 years old’s and I was 32. I did okay at Hendon but was very happy to leave.
My first posting was at Sutton Surrey and my two police officer’s mentors who taught me the beat was Harry Heavy and Bert Stevens. I once went running after a suspect and was told. “Why are you chasing him you should know who he is” They also told me off for walking too fast.
Were your family supportive in you joining the Police Force?
My Mum was but the rest of the family were not. Later in life, my own family (my children) are very proud I was a Police Officer.
You set up the first Domestic Violence units how did that happen?
It was Brixton in 1987 we had a series of GBH which the CID just described as Domestics as very serious assaults and I went to see a Chief Superintendent Bert Achkinson and told him we would have a murder soon if we did not deal with these incidents properly. Two murders happened and I was given the go-ahead to start the unit.
You also were in charge of policy for the Sexual Offences, Domestic Violence, Child Protection and the Paedophile Unit. How did that happen?
I was a Sergeant at Brixton and the management team wanted me to be an Inspector but I never really spoke the language that was liked at the time in assessments centres. So my old DI Jim Mould seconded me to New Scotland Yard. I had the role of writing the policy for Sexual Offences, Domestic Violence, CPT and I was also SPOC for the Paedophile Unit. After a while, you just talk strategy and performance and I passed the assessment Centre and became a Detective Inspector.
You are much known to many in regards to the most notorious cases you have dealt with. Did you ever think about the impact you made at the time on those certain cases?
I only cared then and I only care now on how the families viewed my investigation. I just wanted them to know I had tried my hardest.
How did you end up working on the Stephen Lawrence case and how did you feel with the case and bringing some of the perpetrators to justice?
I had passed the Chief Inspectors exam and was asked to go on the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force. Proactive Unit.
There were two Proactive units one working the East half of London one working the West. When the Metropolitan Police reorganised itself and the abolished Proactive teams. I was asked to go to Deptford Police Station as we had sold it to make sure we had not left anything in there. I found several murder papers one of which was Stephens case. Operation Fishpool. I immediately told the Superintendent who said those immortal words “ Bin Them “.
I went to see Cressida Dick now commissioner and said I would become the SIO for the case. After meeting in the yard it was agreed. I took over on 20th June 2006. It was obvious nothing had been done on the case for many years.
How hard is it being on such notorious cases? Was it hard seeing your family whilst being on cases like this?
It was a privilege to work on them and on occasions my family suffered, I would have to say if you had a management team who did not have children, then it was harder as they seemed to be oblivious to what responsibilities you had as a parent.
Were you removed from the Stephen Lawrence case?
I was never removed from Stephens case I was told I had to retire. In 2014 I had completed 35 years service and was over 60. The Met decided they wanted me to retire it is as simple as that.
You also were on the case for Surjit Atwal can you tell me about that?
Whilst the Met was reorganising I became part of several different units. One of them was the South Asian Crime Squad. I was asked to assume the role of SIO on Surjits case. I was happy to do that and so my team investigated it.
If there was another case that you had to deal with in your career can you remember which one that was one?
There are actually two that stand out Makeswaren Kanashan murdered in East London. The dispute that caused him to be murdered started in Udappuwa Sri Lanka. I travelled to Sri Lanka on several occasions and bought back two suspects later convicted for Murder at the Old Bailey.
Chelsea Headhunters football hooligans complex and difficult but successful.
You also now run your own company what made you do that?
When I left the Police I formed 1 is 2 Many Ltd. Any profits I get from the book or television appearances allows me to help the Charities I support.
You support 3 charities The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, helping families who feel they have not received justice; True Honour, helping families who have been the victims of honour-based violence; and The Paracelsus Trust, helping traumatised victims of abuse. What made you decide on those 3 charities?
I actually support True Honour I am Deputy Chair, Stephen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence asked me to look into problems given to her. Neville Lawrence the same. KickZ football charity I support working with the London Football teams to help youngsters. I am a Dementia and Alzheimers Volunteer. ( I play piano three times a month ) I play the piano in Residential Homes twice a week across South London and Surrey, Sussex. I support all of them because it makes me feel happy and they are wonderful people.
Was it hard for you to build up trust with families and victims on the cases you have worked? Do you still keep in touch with the families?
If you are honest and work hard you will win confidence from families. If they wish to keep in contact with me it’s my privilege, However, I would not force myself on them. I meet with Baroness lawrence once a month and Neville when he is in England. I see Mrs Sarbjit Athwal who is the head of True Honour at least twice a week. I see Mrs Sarbjit Athwal who is the head of True Honour at least twice a week. I speak on the phone to others.
What was your biggest achievement?
Have you ever received any negativity about yourself in regards to your career?
Yes mainly from what was termed as career Detectives in the Metropolitan Police, some of the false rumours still circulating about Stephen Lawrence are both cowardly and hurtful to the family. In a strange way, I would worry if they liked me or not.
Has your life changed since you left the force behind?
Not really other than Fulham have been promoted and I have yet another grandchild so now 9.
Also, I have read your book In Pursuit Of Truth what made you decide to write a memoir?
Baroness Lawrence asked me to after I had been approached by the publishers, I said no originally.
When did you realise you had Dyslexia?
It was whilst I was in the police service when a Barrister was doing a cross examination and afterwards, he said you have Dyslexia officer do not worry. I then took several tests which confirmed it
How hard was it being in the police force with dyslexia?
I did not find it hard as I have had it all my life so have ways of dealing with it.
If you were to do anything different in career or personal life what would it be?
Spend more time with all my children
What do you do to relax after dealing with stressful cases?
I like to watch Fulham or play my piano.
You also have 9 grandchildren that must keep you busy?
Yes! Keeps me busy, happy and skint.
What’s next for Clive?
Who knows? Other than I will be watching Fulham in the premiership
Thank you for asking me the above.
What can I say about Mr Clive Driscoll. He is great and down to earth man and very upbeat. I was honoured that he agreed to do my blog with myself as this blog is just a very new blog and hasn’t got much status like Clive has. I was very happy as he was very open minded in the questions I asked. But one thing I did take away from him is about being positive and not taking any shit! Also, the fact we now will remain great friends. Clive is someone who is great on giving advice I already chewed his ear off! A brilliant man and a great role model!
I am first and foremost, a Sikh of the Guru. I was born and raised in Derby and then I have travelled worldwide before settling back in the UK in 2012.
Whats your day job?
Full time mother to three young children!
Before starting Sikh Colouring Books what were you doing?
I am an IT Unix Administrator by profession. Prior to the Sikh Colouring Books project, I have worked with media organisations in Australia and with the European Space Agency in the Netherlands.
Why did you start Sikh Colouring Books? Is it important for us to know our Sikh Identity?
I started the Sikh Colouring Books project because I felt that there was a lack of resources to help children learn about their identity, history and heritage in a simple, fun and interactive way. The project actually started from doing a simple gift for the other children at the nursery where my kids attended for the occasion of Vaisakhi. I made just 3 hand made drawings, photocopied them and stapled them with a handmade design of what is now the cover of the Sikh Colouring Book for Children, my first book. This was very well received and inspired me to do more.
It is very important for our children to know about our Sikh identity how else are they going to be confident representing the Sikh image to the wider world if they do not understand the reasoning behind it all
Have you always connected with your Sikhi?
It was always there from the start even though much of it was cultural at a young age. For example, going to the Gurdwara every Sunday was a family event that you had to do.
When did you take Amrit and why did you decide to take it?
I heard a Sakhi about Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and about how he sacrificed his life for other people. This made me feel that I had to do something. So I decided at that point to stop cutting my Kes (hair). This was followed up with further research into Sikhi and I started to attend Sikhi classes at the local Gurdwara. I then practised keeping the ‘rehit’ for one year and was blessed with Amrit after that.
What does your Dastaar mean to you?
My identification as a Sikh of the Guru.
What has been your biggest struggle?
Initially it was accepting facial hair. However, because I was in Europe at the time and quite isolated, I could do things at my own pace and there was no pressure and no comparison to others.
What has been your best achievement so far?
I don’t know if I can specifically choose one. Receiving Amrit was one. Secondly, marrying an Australian (don’t tell him that) (laughing) Then it was having the opportunity to have children and at present, I am very proud of how the Sikh Colouring Project has progressed in the span of just under 2 years. I am forever thankful to Guru Ji for all of these and countless other blessings.
You was featured in Times Of India for Sikh Colouring Books how was that?
It was great to be recognised by a publication of such stature just after undertaking the Sikh Colouring Books project. It came out of nowhere. I was approached by one of their journalists who wanted to know more about what I was doing.
You also went to Canada because of the books how did that happen? Do you do Sikhi Camps?
My first international trip was to Kenya in June 2017. It was a great and humbling experience with the Nishkam Jatha from Birmingham. I was there for a week and it was a week of Chardi Kala! I was involved from dawn till dusk helping children do crafts and learn about Sikhi in different ways. They even had me doing discussions with women about the challenges that they face and I taught them how to tie a Dastaar too!
Following that, I was invited to Canada to help with a Sikh Family Camp in Toronto. This was followed by the Sikh Youth Australia annual camp in Sydney, Australia in January 2018. Attending camps and interacting with sangat worldwide is great. It takes a lot of organisation and I have to sacrifice time away from my own children but I enjoy helping others learn about Sikhi.
Whats next for Ranjeet?
I’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline that I am currently working on. I am really enjoying working at my own pace for the Sikh Colouring Project but its been a whirlwind experience where one thing has lead to another by itself. So, I guess watch this space!
I first met Ranjeet in a coffee shop in Coventry and her warm personality made me feel like I have known her all my life. She has such a great heart and energy. She is so positive and has a great way of thinking and I feel she has so much to offer. Please show some love to Ranjeet as she is just such a great job on the colouring books! I love them!
I never thought about that and never been asked that question before but that’s a really good question actually. I guess that’s what we’re here for to find out who we are and to find ourselves. I don’t think I have found myself yet. It’s a difficult question. I’m a very honest person and transparent in my communication that also makes me a very straightforward person. I also like to stand up for the right values even if that means I’m going to get backlash. I will always try my best to push the system and do my best all the time. I’m a very passionate person. I can be a very possessive mum (laughing) and I’m also a wife. When I say possessive I mean I’m just very protective which I think is quite a natural part of being a mum. Myself and my husband have got a great trust towards each other. I remember having a conversation with my daughter and I was due to go to Canada to do Patchar. I was never doing it for money it was purely in Seva. I was going out there to speak to the community in Canada. I remember saying to my daughter I’m going tomorrow but I really don’t want to go. I wanted to stay with my children. My eldest child said to me you know Mum when you was getting married you had to leave your house and then had to come to dad’s house but you didn’t want to do that did you? I remember saying no. My Eldest then said but you did it and that’s why we are here in the world. She also said there are some things in life you don’t want to do but you have to do it. I remember just looking at her and I said to her you have just given me the courage to go and do what I need to do. I see myself as a person who has a role to play that role is unclear to me yet. I really do appreciate life also my kids and my husband are a massive part of my life. I love also being a child with my children and with my husband. I feel I can be trustworthy and a good listener.
(I have have had so much great feedback when it comes to Mandeep Kaur she may not agree but she is such a great person. Her voice is soothing and she gives great advice. She is a great listener and a brilliant friend. Mandeep is a role model to many as she does not think that but to me she is. When I first met her for this meeting she even had food ready for me! This woman is a beautiful soul. You will know what I mean when you meet her )
Have you always been into your Sikhi?
I was born into a Sikh family but then again I would say more Punjabi family. We didn’t have practising Sikh’s in our house. Yes we used to go to the Gurdwara. That was it really. Then my mum became a baptised Sikh so she took Amrit. That then attracted me very much into Sikhi and looking at the Kirpan and the Dastaar. So I remember asking my mum can I take Amrit and she looked at me and said no. My mum said you are too young but she stated they have no issues with you wanting to do it but you are still quite young, wait till you get married as it will be very difficult for you to find a match when you are baptised and had taken Amrit. Then I just left the topic after that for a period of time. But the yearning kept increasing and I kept regular sangat to keep learning about my Guru.
I saw a Documentary about yourself talking about how important your Dastaar is. Why is it important to you?
Again this is not where I started, even when I took Amrit I used to cover my head with a chunni (scarf) That was good enough for me back then. There were lots of people that came to me when I never used to wear a Dastaar and used to say that I should actually wear one and they gave me millions of reasons on why I should. I really started to hate it because I was really getting more and more pressure to wear one. I remember saying to them look this is who I am and you can’t force me to wear one. I’m just at that point I’m not ready for this yet. I remember saying I respect all your reasons I respect you all as people. A few incidents happened to me with that scenario. But I’m not going to do it for the sake of doing it, once I do it I do it because I want to as I will be in a better position in my mind to do this and respect the Dastaar fully. But it just so happens as time went on I was actually dying to wearone. It happened without any thinking any preparation it just happened but I was ready. I remember I was married and I said to my husband you know I’m ready and this is what I want to do. My husband just said to me you go for it. At that time I was learning about Bani. One of the lines that really inspired me was “Saab Surat Dastaar Sira”
When we talk about Guru Granth Sahib Ji scriptures we say and we should live to our Guru and do whatever he says. And this just appealed to me. That the line doesn’t apply just to males it doesn’t say that. I mean it wasn’t only just that line but there’s so many different teaching’s that I could tell you about on the reasons on why I came into this journey.
Another thing that inspired me was being a role model for my children. This happened when my first daughter was born and she was 6 months old we went to Amritsar. I didn’t know how to do my Dastaar properly and my husband helped me over 10 days and it was really hard. Now I don’t see myself without my crown. I see my beauty in my crown. This is part of me. I can see the difference. I say its a uniform you know you work in an organisation where you wear a uniform in the police. When you wear that uniform you have to adhere to certain expectations of yourself and etiquette. With Sikhi in my opinion with this uniform you can’t take it off. If anyone finds it hard in the beginning, pressure or limitations but acting in the manner the behaviour will change and it becomes easier. The Dastaar for me is important it’s my crown.
What is your education background?
I am an Engineer. I have done my education in civil engineering. I’ve also done my masters. Also done my PHD in Engineering also. In between doing my PHD I became a chaplain.
Before the job you are doing now, what was you doing before that?
So after my masters I was a researcher at University did that for a few months till I enrolled for my PHD. Other than my researching I was a student. I did a few jobs as a student. I wasn’t in any full time role.
You are the only Sikh female chaplain in the Armed Forces. What made you decide to go for this particular role?
I’m the only Sikh Chaplain and female yes. Again this was not something I planned to do which is quite funny really. This is whilst I was doing my PhD and one of the students he brought in a newspaper article with the job inside it and he said there’s a job in here that may be some sort of interest to you. I didn’t really pay much attention to it and I thought no it’s not for me because I don’t have some of the qualifications they may possibly be looking for and the criteria was quite high and also for example and you had to be in country for so many years and obviously I was here as a student doing my PhD. Also there is no age restriction yet to be a certain age to apply and I was under the age restriction. The one thing that did click to me and was the reason whilst I was doing my degree and my masters I was part of a lot of the Sikhi associations and I used to be part of a lot of unions as well and we were promoting Sikh Values. We used to go and help and support drug addicts and take them to rehabs. So I was into that as a volunteer and I used to love doing that. I checked the article for the job again and I thought there was a welfare and listening part to the role and I love to do that. So I thought to myself I will apply and see what happens. I would love to do that as my profession. I was shortlisted and that was good enough for me and I was invited for an interview and I got the job. I was so happy and so shocked. I really enjoyed my interview and I got a feel to what they would want me to do. It was a massive responsibility and I was studying. My mum suggested to me to do Ardaas (prayers) and get guidance. I was in a dilemma to take on the role. My mum was a huge support. The paperwork did take a long time but I was successful and here I am. It all worked out in Oct 2005.
For people who do not know, what a chaplain is, especially a Sikh Chaplain could you explain?
My primary role is to support Sikhs and their dependants on a moral, spiritual and pastoral basis. The other strand is I advise the chain of command, the bosses and the Ministry Of Defence as a whole also on policy and faith matters especially Sikhi. The third strand is educational. I go out across 3 services. The Royal Navy. The British Army and The Royal Air Force to talk about the values and relay them to defence. I organise events myself and I feel very satisfied.
Is it hard being a career woman and juggling home life as I can imagine your job can be quite demanding?
I would say it is challenging. It is not impossible. To do this role you have to make sacrifices for sure. But I really enjoy what I do. I take issues that I face and I take it as I am helping my community. That gives me a drive and if its really hard and harsh at times I just push myself. I feel like I am working for my Guru (God)
There is no other Chaplain and I work alone and I have no team. Things can go right or wrong. I work incredibly hard. I am motivated. But if you have the right passion you will have no problems, with positive feedback and a smile on someone’s face you would like to carry on doing it.
Are your family supportive?
Yes they are very supportive. My husband and children value what I do. My husband has always encouraged me to do my best. I could never have done that without any family support.
You are a role model and I know you say you aren’t but you are and even to myself. But who is yours?
Oh a difficult one. I can’t say there is a person. There are people who have inspired me. Again I should have a role model. If I think about it now, when I read about Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I want to become like him, it maybe a weird thing to say (laughing)
The way he behaved, lived and acted, and I only became to know when I started to read more about him. I realised I didn’t know my Guru until I read this and that’s how I felt. Especially when I did Parchar I use Guru Nanak Dev Ji all the time and I belong to him. Also there are some Sikh women that I also read about. Those women who let their children get cut to pieces and still say their Sikhi is everything to them. I feel shaken in a positive way as they were my sisters. That history inspires me a lot. The first novels I ever read about Sikhi was by Satwant Kaur and Balbir Kaur. They are strong women. There is another lady called Baljit Kaur, she is a strong personality and she is from Canada and when I heard her speak she was really great. She is a huge inspiration to me.
I met you originally at an event and you was speaking about Sikhi. Now you do a lot of talks all around the world. What is your most memorable one?
Another hard one! I mean amazing things have happened. But to be honest the most memorable one for me was we had Saraghari Day in Staffordshire just recently, I know you are aware as you was invited. I did a service there and I spoke there and it wasn’t long and it was about Sikhi. We were having lunch and one of the guys came up to me, he wasn’t Sikh he said ” Whatever you said today I can click with that” You are like a godly figure and you have a great aura and I was chuffed about what he said. I remember saying these teaching are not just for Sikhs but it is universal. I mean I had women hugging me also.
I was also speaking at Niskham centre in Birmingham recently and a Muslim lady came over and hugged me and said I see God in you and when she said that I felt something. I will share another example with you. I went to the camp and I won’tmention any names. I spoke for a week and I remember one of the attendee’s came up to me and said do you remember me and I replied no. As I said my memory isn’t good (laughing) But he said I came last year and we spoke about this and this. The male was married for 8 years and his wife was still in India and he shared his story openly and publicly and the title was “Dukh” (sadness) Also how to overcome sorrow. I asked them can you share with us all what is your biggest sorrow you are facing now? This malestated he was married but he has not accepted his wife and it has been 8 years and we had a massive debate about it. I asked why. The bottom line was she is a good girl but he felt like he was forced into the marriage. But it wasn’t his fault. The girl was still living with his parents and still looks after his parents. I said you are lucky in this day and age that does not happen. We did Ardaas together and I said it would be great if you could bring her here to the next camp and one day and you learn to accept her. Anyway, this year I met him again. He had brought his wife with him to the camp. I was so happy and I felt the humanity. The male said he was really happy. It took him time to accept her still but he still did it.
Have you ever received any negativity with your work or your identity?
I did and still do. Again I will give you an example I was recently asked to do someone’s Anand Karaj. I was asked to do someone’s wedding and it was an honour and it was in Smethwick and it was the same one that me and you met and when you did your SikhAwareness Event it was there. The first thing he asked me to do an introduction and then I’m going to be an undercarriage and it was a great feeling and it was a massive responsibility.
So anyway recently someone from Europe asked me my wedding is coming up we would like you to lead on it and then I said no speak to your family you know this isn’t a birthday party this is a Anand karaj. So he went back and then I got a response after he spoke to everybody he spoke to community members and they stated that women can’t do that. Just because I’m a female my first reaction was oh that’s good. I actually really like a challenge it makes me and push myself more if everything went smooth I wouldn’t learn anything about myself. So I said that’s fine don’t worry but he was like no we still want you to attend though. We still like you to do Parchar. you can do everything else but not the wedding. all I said was there’s only one thing I want from you and for you to give me the reason on why you didn’t want me to do this. Or does the Granthi need the money? Or is it that people will start talking. I said I really would like to know when I can try to educate them in regards to this I said I’m not even coming there for money you know you can have the money. I remember getting a phone call and then saying I’m not going to lie to you I’m going to be honest with you it was because of my parents they didn’t feel comfortable and they had this very strong belief that females cannot perform the Anand Karaj. Then he said you know they love you to bits and I really want you to come but they don’t want to do this he said it’s actually in their mindset you know it cannot be changed it’s just the way they are. I remember saying you know what fair enough you know it’s okay I really don’t want to upset your parents and I don’t want you to get into an argument with your parents. His parents were already compromising his happiness because he was having a traditional Sikhi wedding. I said just leave it now. Hopefully I can do the Parchar and educate at the same time. It was a family affair. The day after he wanted to speak to me urgently that his parents had gone to Amritsar they had gone to Darbaar Sahib. They had spoken to the officials there. They asked the question if a female can perform an Anand Karaj and they were told off for even thinking like that. There is no such no thing. The motive was to educate people about this question. I don’t like backward thinking. That was a small example. Incident’s like these only teach us something and makes us even more stronger.
There is always that stigma that men can do a better job than a female isn’t it?
Honestly it just makes me laugh and I’m strong within myself and you have to be I try not to worry myself about it but it also gives me a reason for me to educate you know some people about gender equality. My Guru has given me this world for a reason and I’m going to fill it to the best of my ability. Out of all of the Chaplains I am the only female one and that for me speak volumes doesn’t matter about anything else. It’s a shame that certain communities still push the stigma about females and it’s quite sad actually. Its always boys this and boys that I don’t feel the females always get the short end of the stick but it drives me even more and it shows me it doesn’t matter if i’m female I will achieve my goal. I also go to events where they just want a female so it’s two different extremes. I’ve been to places like New Zealand and Australia and they wanted me to speak there as I was a female.
You have also changed a few policies in the army can you give me an example?
Yes, we have changed a few policies one is that a Sikh Soldier can keep his beard and wear the 5K’s. They can do their prayers (bani) whilst serving in the Army. That’s a huge achievement. If we didn’t push towards it then it would of never happened. There is more room for Sikh’s who want to join the army to become more devout. I always take advise from superiors also.
What was your biggest challenge since you started your role?
Okay so my biggest challenge was my own community letting me down when you want to achieve so much for the community. Especially when you work really hard and you’ve achieved something it could be anything. The problem we have is everybody seems to think they are scholars and that they know better than others and give their opinions. and to me that’s fine you’re entitled to your opinion. For me it’s my job to look after the faith needs of people and that’s my job as a chaplain. Sometimes I have to change policies to help the needs of other people and we have really successfully done to be honest and I’m very proud of that and it will help people in order to join the army in generations to come. One thing I always get is can we be in the army as a Sikh can we live in our Sikh way and join the defence and be devout and still be a soldier. That’s a massive question that i’m always getting asked.
You also do your annual event Chardi Khalla, can you tell me more?
Chardi Kala event has been running for 12 years. When I first came into this role, I remember saying I am a chaplain for the Sikhs where are they? How do I talk to them? How do I engage with them? How do I get to know them? How do I know where the issues lie? (laughing) There was a lot of questions I was asking in terms of my role and the response was they didn’t know so after a lot of issues and meetings that obviously occurred I decide to set this up. I was given some information but not a lot. In the first instance I set up an event a one day event for people to come so I could introduce myself. A lot of people there with a sceptical you know as in who is she, what she going to do that sort of thing. But a lot of people turned up and I was very surprised and then it went really well. So then I decided to set up this three day conference bring everyone together. Now this was a spiritual retreat. So the idea was as I look after 3 units The Royal Navy, The British Army and The Royal Air Force, I didn’t have an office where people could come and see me in just once place as all units are spread out all over the place. I was alone and whenever I was needed I would go out and visit that unit. I support where ever they are and it’s very hard to see them on a regular basis, and the idea was for everyone to come to one place so everyone can meet each other get to know each other and to get to know me. It was to lift our morale and also on the spiritual side also, reflect on our faith values. It was to recharge ourselves because work can get quite demanding. It’s also extended to the soldier’s partners and family members if they wanted to come as well. I must say I’ve had a great experiences for a decade doing this conference I always keep the feedback forms and always look back on them and to see you know what people really thought when they came to the conference, it is because it’s very important isn’t it. It is not easy trying to arrange this three day conference there’s a lot involved and there’s a lot that you need to do and make sure that everything goes smoothly. We have funding involved and who is paying for what. What food shall we get. There are many protocols that you have to face and you have to adhere to. But it is so worth it so the idea was to bring people together and it’s also civilians as well such as civilian staff. So you live as a Sikh for 3 days.
So no Smoking, Drinking or eating meat for 3 days?
Yes. We had this discussion as well. A lot of the soldiers who were there who are retiring at the time and said this is an annual get together, and this is what we’ve been missing for the last 20 years. If this was set up when they started, their life would be a lot different. They still keep in touch with me even though they are retired so that honestly means a lot to me as well. The army was different. It’s completely different now imagine joining the army 20 years ago.
Then one person said most of us drink and eat meat and why can’t we have it here. My response to that was this is a Sikhi conference. So everything we do will be a lived experience. It’s not going to be where you just sitting there listening to lectures you will be participating as well. It isn’t about the food or drink that’s not what you’re here for you not here for the food/drink you have to remind yourself you’re here for a spiritual retreat. Again I was tested in terms of those issues. But I had to hold my own values and be strong. But thankfully people adhere to it for the conference. We do spiritual prayers and I do not want alcohol present. One of the Soldier’s partner even lead a prayer and she had never done that before and it really made me happy. These conferences are very beneficial.
You have also put on other events also tell me more
Yes. I have done Vaisakhi at the Ministry Of defence building. This was very hard work and I was running around so much also. But I had a huge success with spaces runningout. this was for the community and we was able to educate the Ministry of Defence about Sikhi. What is the Vaiskahi and who we are a Sikhs. but that we did it you know part of the Whitehall building which is the Ministry of Defence building with a massive thing. This attracted a lot of people and it was an open event also. I tend to invite a lot of non Sikhs than Sikhs as obviously we know or should know about Vaisakhi. We had Gatka this year as well. some people who actually worked at the Ministry of Defence building came to observe what we was doing. they said it was great that we was doing this and we are learning a lot more about your culture. There was a lot of education behind it we had a lot of mistaken identity so it was a day where people could learn what Sikhs are. It speaks volumes when people give you that feedback because it’s important very important to hear that. My idea behind this was just to educate people about our culture and Faith.
The first ever event I ever did was when my daughter was very poorly and she was in hospital at the time and I will never ever forget the experience I had trying to put that event together. I had arranged that whole event from the children’s hospital in Birmingham. I remember sitting in the children’s pray room on the phone trying to organise this event. The event went so high profile without me even knowing about it because I where I was at the time. I remember I was at the hospital and I was giving my daughter a bath at the Children’s Hospital and my phone just would not stop ringing constantly. The media from India had started to contact me and said they want me to make sure we get this right. This was happening for the first time so we want to make sure everything is perfect. Even the UK media are all on board then they were contacted to be there actually on the day. They were asking me how do we make sure we get things right.
The irony was they all knew I was at the hospital. But the commitment was so pressing they wanted it to be done quickly. I was in the hospital for a good few months with my daughter, on and off for a year. Let me tell you something I left the hospital and went home just to get changed and then took a train go to the event and they go straight back to the hospital. Nobody knew that. I actually wrote my speech on the train. I was very emotional on the train and I ask myself what inspired me to do this despite everything that’s going on in my personal life that’s what I was thinking. In my speech I even said I get my inspiration for those who stand up for their faith, our Guru’s. I felt emotional on the day but I also felt powerful also. If I can manage what was going on then I can manage anything else to come. By that point my daughter was out of danger and I could disclose what was going on at the time. My daughter was diagnosed with cancer Stage 3 at that time. I remember she had surgery for 9 hours and it didn’t go well and then after 7 days had to go for surgery again. She was only 3 at the time and she was tiny. They wouldn’t let her go home if she had a temperature. I used to go to work when she was asleep. Then my husband would come and we were taking turns to look after her and make sure someone is around her. The doctor kept saying don’t do that you’re not even sleeping during the night and you’re not even sharing your emotions with anybody.
I will tell you another situation in the hospital when my daughter was sleeping I used to stick by her and you get the hospital readings the monitors. Every time I used to leave the room her readings used to go through the roof and it’s like my daughter’s knew if wasn’t there. My husband was a witness to that. So all the planning was from the hospital and even then I used to get people coming up to me saying, we would have done it better this way. I remember saying you know why don’t you take ownership and do the events and I will always support you but you try it. In the end they asked me to take leadership on the event and that was that. Also people used to say you go Gurdwara and this happened to you I mean whats the point? I remember saying well yes I do go Gurdwara and it is happening to me and my family because we can take it. We are strong. I just remember some of the comments. But there’s a saying if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger. Our Guru is with us.
You also set up British Armed Forces Sikh Association, why was this set up?
Yes. It was a great idea. All faith groups have one. The Muslim Association set theirs up first. We was the last to set it up. It was set up in 2013. I had great volunteers at the time and they were ready to do Seva. We had support from the diversity team also. BAFSA has grown in members. My role is the Chaplain. I’m not the chair of BAFSA.
There isn’t many Female Sikh Soldiers is there? I know you have said for me to become a reserve officer
No there isn’t! There is some but not enough. Yes you still need to join! We need more females like you. You would be a great role model. You just have to start slowly I mean even I have started running now, I have purchased my running shoes and I love it. I sometimes I do fitness tests. I do the bleep tests and the push ups and sit ups! So we can do it! (Mandeep Kaur is trying to motivate me) I have passed my Officers tests now which was a huge achievement.
The Sikh Soldiers come to you when they need a listening ear. You are always supportive and highly respected! Why do you think that is?
I don’t know! (laughing) I don’t know why I am respected. But I am who I am. I visit the Soldiers and their families and build the rapport whenever I can. I like to be that person where I can help. It takes courage to pick up a phone to talk. I love my job and I love what to do. I just listen and offer my support. But I do call people out if needed. But I do not judge them. I also know the people who talk about me behind my back. But I still talk to them and I still respect them. I will never change my nature at all. I am not here to please anyone I am here to help. Listening to someone is the key.
You also do Kirtan so beautifully, is that something you have always done?
Yeah. My first memory was when I was 9 years old when I performed with sangat. My mum encouraged us as well. My mum was very motivated and inspirational. My dad passed away when I was in Year 12. My mum has never not been there even through the difficult times. My mum has always had faith in Guru no matter. Very firm faith. I started to learn the harmonium. One of the ladies in India where I used to live there. The lady said no as she had her own young children. My mum really pushed for me to do classes. I really wanted to learn and I was her first student and since I started and I feel so proud saying this. This lady classes have grown and there were hundreds of children through the years that have learnt from her. I remember playing at the Gurdwara and the whole sangat was so supportive. I was really lucky where I used to live there was weekly Kirtan. I learnt a lot. I have also had a passion for it. Kirtan is a blessing. When you do seva it’s a different feeling.
Whats next for Mandeep Kaur?
I really don’t know (laughing) Nothing in my life is planned. Its up to Guru Ji. I have been blessed so far. Lets see what happens next. As long as I am on Guru given mission/task everything is all good for me.
I met Mandeep Kaur at an event and I always found her so fascinating. The fact she is the only female chaplain in the Armed Forces and is Sikh is just incredible for me. I have listened to her speak and she is just mind blowing. I remember being at the Met Police event and she spoke about Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings and there was much I didn’t know but she broke it down so I could understand. Everyone in that room was holding on to her every word including me. I can even explain what a beautiful soul she is. She really hates “bigging herself up” But I really think she should more. The work she does not only in the Armed Forces but outside with her own Seva is important. Myself and Mandeep Kaur have now become friends she has a such a child like laugh I hope she doesn’t go mad at me for saying so! Please show some love this wonderful person. Mandeep Kaur hasn’t done a blog like this before and also spoke so openly about herself and her personal life. Mandeep has showed incredible strength and for that I have the up most respect for her. This is one sister I’m incredibly proud of. Also a fun fact she always finds her thoughts on the trains! Always something interesting as well. Love this woman she is just so helpful. Mandeep is always pushing for changes and to help the soldiers in anyway she can. This lady has a heart of gold.
Well Ravita is a Mum a daughter a daughter in a law wife and sister. Ravita is a homely person. I think through my experiences now know who I am and who I actually want to become. Ravita is a spiritual person. Religion plays a massive part in my life hence why the #morethanjustmakeup was born. Ravita is just crazy, carefree and wants everyone to be happy.
The other side of myself who is better known as #RP. That side of me is very driven and passionate and very much about female empowerment. Also it’s about Seva for others. The makeup is the tool to be able to do that. How do I listen to other people’s problems and then be able to communicate with them. Then also give them advice to potentially change their lives, whether it’s a change of direction or it could be anything. #morethanjustmakeup
People put fire in my belly and that’s how things were born; Actions speak louder than words. As the business has grown it has become clear on what I want. It gives me clear definitions for what I want in personal life and business life.
What is your day job for anyone who does not know?
I’m a make up artist and I own my own business. Ravita Pannu Ltd.
Before the Make-Up world what was you doing before that?
My last job was a reassurance officer for the Anti Social Behaviour Team. I was working for key partners such as the local authorities. My job was to put projects into place to stop offences or crime trends from re occurring. The last project I did was the theft of Asian Gold. My business had already been born, I realise that now and honestly i didn’t realise what i was building but I knew It was something. It was growing rapidly.
Going to my 9-5 job and building the business i had to leave at the right time. My daughter was young back then and of course bills to pay. My husband was diagnosed with an Illness and there was just so much going on at that time.
I was still in the mean time focused and stated to brand without even realising! For eg I didn’t want to be known as a just an ‘MUA’ which is why I never used it! I feel that because my platform is a lot bigger than just makeup! The makeup I realise now is a tool in order to get through and to support, educate and empower women. If we were to be to be really honest with each other and said “I really want you to do well” How many people would mean it? Not many at all. We live in a world where it is champagne lifestyle and lemonade budget!
Further more i also got very ill i only had my wisdom teeth taken out in the September 2014 but by December the doctors could not understand why I wasn’t healing. The weight dropped off me. Then they made see a counsellor and they soon realised it was my lifestyle I was burning the candle at both ends. I knew then I had to give up one of the jobs. I had a discussion with my husband, my marriage was also suffering as I was doing 2 jobs and simply we weren’t spending any time together. 4 years ago in January I went into work, completing my return to work after having 3 months off. I then handed in my notice. I knew it was the right time for me. I’ve never looked back.
Now Ravita you used to be a female bouncer working the doors is that right?
Yes (laughing) I did that for 2 years. I worked the doors I used to do the garage nation nights. I was such a garage head. One way of my parents allowing me to go to these raves was securing the job and getting paid. I was a bit of a fiery character back in my youth and that is not something I am proud off. The last job I did was millennium and that was at Fox’s night club in Wolverhampton. There were so many shootings and stabbings and I never worked the doors again.
What made you get into the make up world?
Make up never came into it. It was never a discussion. I started off 25 years ago doing mehendi that’s what I did. Then naturally I could do hair it made sense to me. I didn’t even charge for hair back then. The makeup side of it came in a lot lot later.
I supported to a few people in the industry I won’t name.
They introduced me to the world of makeup. They encouraged me and said why don’t you put all 3 things together. That’s precisely what i did.
No one gave me any training and simply thought I will try this. Knowing there was a massive niche in the market, in terms of customer service and offering an overall service in terms of putting all three things together. Mehndi, hair and makeup under one umbrella. I took it back to basics and I worked my ass off often working for free for a number of years.
I went off and got my diploma and studied make up from root foundation and I just practised practiced practised. If I showed you images of my work from years ago to now there’s a massive difference even I think wow! I am always learning that’s what an artist does it grows with time. You have to keep up with the trends, inspiration and influencer’s! I mean my daughter she is also is my educator when it comes to social media, My daughter keeps me current!
Who is your role model/inspiration?
My mother. All I can say is she really worked so hard and I mean really hard. She would do her 9-5 job and then her night job I can still hear that sewing machine, up till the early hours of the morning. I would get up and the food was on the tablewhether that was breakfast or dinner. But did I ever see my mum? No. That is because they were, mum and dad working so hard. But the dynamics in our household with my dad was very different. Alcohol abuse and doing what most men do ‘drink problems away’
Dad had so much to give his creative side is so powerful but such is life. My dad spends most of his time in India now as its easier set up my mum and dad won’t divorce. My mum was the breadwinner for many years. My mum was the dad. My mum was mum. Dad stayed home and raised me, mum went out to work my mum also introduced us to the finer things in life, we never ever went without. My determination, the drive all comes from my mum.
However you have to also be your own role model at times. I have to be my daughter’s role model. There is a reason why I brought my daughter with me today so she can hear a lot of this there is a lot she doesn’t know.
What was your childhood like growing up?
It was a very Punjabi household, food drink and lots of hot heads! Lol! My mumnever did anything in the norm though! My mum was outspoken, she never said anything about you behind your back it was always to your face. I’m very much like that.I got classed as a trouble maker because we say it how it is.
I don’t want to be like ‘majority’ who say it behind your back. I’m real to your face! My childhood was a mixed one. I have some good memories and I know i have some memories locked in pandora’s box. Unfortunately in our culture we have the issues of Alcohol which is the biggest breaker within any family. If I was being honest if we talk about my dad’s generation, they migrated over here they had nothing and they made it. However the struggles such as loosing your family along the way have had huge impacts We simply don’t talk about the issues.
How did you and husband meet?
We met at a young age. We married young i was 23! Ok so let’s be honest we met on the internet. I am not ashamed to say that as Shaddi.com is very popular now. We met through a chat room he had messaged me a few times due to my user name! It was when 112 “peaches and cream” song was out and popular. My nickname was ‘peaches & cream’ He had messaged but I had no desire to marry especially an Indian boy. I never kept many Asian friends, mainly male company! Why you knew were you stood! My parents would say why don’t you have girl mates you only have boy mates. My husband Harj came into my life I remember I was dating someone at that time. However me and HP (his nickname lol) and talked for about 8 months and he then asked to see a photo of me. I wasn’t his type. Which was absolutely fine. I was bigger girl back then and not really his type! We eventually met and I knew when I met him he was the one I was going to marry. We became friends. I asked him to marry me and I got down on one knee. But he said no! What I didn’t know he was planning to propose to me in a restaurant I said no! But I was only joking and said yes (laughing) we have been married nearly 14 years and been together nearly 16.
Was he very supportive in what you do?
If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here. We are really all connected as a family. When my daughter was born she gave me the fire in my belly. Harj is my driver.
There have been times when I have wanted to pack it all in thats because I have let my emotional side takeover with my personal connections and over shadow what the business is about. Yes I have made mistakes but I have no regrets it’s made me who I am today. Harj is my everything. I am a family woman. Yes I’ve messed up who hasn’t but what doesn’t break you makes you stronger!
Things happen for a reason. I can’t change people’s view about me nor do i want to!
I have no regrets it has made me a better person today! The reason I don’t always put him on social media there is 3 things I live by you don’t need to tell anyone who you are sleeping with, your next move or what is in your bank account.
What do you love about your job?
What isn’t there to love! There are 2 reasons, one is when you have potentially got through to somebody on a mental connection! Simply listening and really honestly from the bottom of your heart wanting to help them!
The other side to it is when the bride and parents see the herself/bride for the first time, that for me is priceless. Now being a mother myself you can’t describe that feeling. The way I see it is if I can change someone’s thought process to make changes then my job is done as a human being.
Does make up in your opinion help with self esteem?
Yes! Make up is a huge mask in so many ways! I would like to think that I can read people and there behaviour ie confidence, lack of etc etc
I meet a lot of people in my job. I meet women who need a lot more than just the makeup! Its what ill refer back to #morethanjustmakeup
Make up mentoring I would like to call it. You have some women who just want to look good and there are others when the makeup goes on it changes everything. I have helped sex lives! You build relationships when a client books you for a couple of days for eg! Some girls have said that I’ve broken them down where they were so comfortable in talking to me and Reena! But yes make up does help with self esteem. It is a huge Tool!
How do you make yourself different from everyone else?
I don’t know I think it comes naturally. I don’t think my make up skills are the best to be honest but I push my myself daily. I like to ask my clients why they book me and a lot of them say I just want to be RP’d. I look at some artists and I think holy shit they are good. But one thing I thing I appreciate now is I also know we get booked simply for what the brand stands for! The brand I have built is all about female empowerment. Let’s just root for each other. I have refused clients who don’t get what my brand is about I simply don’t want clients like that, if we can’t support one another genuinely then what’s honestly the point?
What has been your main struggle in doing what you do?
My main struggle would have to be the time away from my family without a doubt. People want to see what they want to see. They think she wears nice clothes and drives a decent car. That is all materialistic. I work really really hard!
One thing no-one sees, me in my car dying for the toilet, crying that I haven’t seen my daughter or husband in 3 days, haven’t slept or eaten. But people say wow you look amazing and lost weight but it’s because I don’t have the time to eat (laughing) I have also learnt how to deal with my emotions. I have learnt to manage but myself and hubby have been through so much to get to get to where we are now. We are are SO indestructible and I am so thankful.You have to learn to whittle out the hate and especially when you think someone is your friend. I have realised there is a lot of snakes out there. Also my own actions haven’t been great. But you have to learn lessons from it. Then you move on. And become a better person!
How do you prioritise your jobs if you get more than 1 on a day?
Its first come first serve. It’s a business. I do prioritise bridal where I can but manage the diary to perfection!
I love the brand RPDivas how did that come about?
One day my daughter she was only 6 years old at the time and back then my business it was called something else “more mehndi”. I remember saying something to her and she replied “Well I’m your Diva” and then something clicked with the name. She is my ‘RPDiva’. I loved it. My daughter created it and it was born! I understood social media I was ‘hash tagging’ a very long time ago. I have people in the industry saying stop what you are doing. It’s annoying. I was like no and I know there was going to be a hype social media! I just knew it. I knew how big social media was going to be. I have had marketing companies ask me to work for them but I’m like no I work for myself.
Have you ever received any negativity in regards to yourself via social media?
Yes! Keyboard warriors what I would like to call them. Yes if it is about my work then fine. I’m not here to please anyone I know I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I have been referred to being too big for my boots. Which I don’t care. I always say come and talk to me have a conversation with me on why you don’t like me especially if you don’t know me personally! I will shake your hand even if you don’t like me as I know how hard it is to have a face to face conversation with anyone any be brutally honest! But I have no time for keyboards warriors! They to me are insecure! Its how you deal with it! Over the years I’ve let it destroy me, but if you took every comment to heart it would transpire!
Have you lost any friends being in the business you are in and possibly ask for personal favours and working for free?
Yeah I have lost many relationships and friends along the way! It goes back to a situation I was in previously which I won’t go into. I have battled with many because of the business. Bearing in mind my brand is all about female empowerment and supporting one another. I have lost friends. This is what I meant previously about battling personal and distinguishing personal over my business. Its tough going but i’m prepared to sit at the table alone! It is painful losing anyone! But I have learnt how to cope along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also messed up but I had to make changes. I wear my heart on my sleeve at times! However i now always listen to My gut and instinct is always right.
The right project I’ll work for free! But many discredit our industry professionally I have no room around the table for such people. I keep Personal and business very separate.
But i’ve also created some amazing relationships and had the opportunity to meet some fricken amazing human beings!
I have to mention Kudos music DJ H has been a huge help and he has helped me on the way and with my business head! In return they never have asked for anything All I do is support and encourage! Also Tej, you know who you are! (Laughing)
Honestly the support from them in my early days priceless, i have a saying ‘Never bite the hand that feeds you’ I live by that!
Who has to be the most memorable person you have styled even celebrities?
Celebrities don’t faze me. They are human too. But if I had the opportunity to style Diljit Dosanjh and I know this is sad (laughing) I am his biggest super fan I swear. I would love to style him. Jenny Johal she looked amazing also I was asked to style her. Jenny and her mum I have the most up most respect for. Jenny’s brother is the driver for her career. I used to be a giddha dancer back in the day so I get it being on stage and the labels attached to female stage dancers but Jenny and her approach was amazing. We are still connected till this day. Recently creating her look again at BBC Asian network live!
Below is a video of Jenny Johal where Ravita had styled her the #RP way:
My biggest daily celebrities are my brides, They are the real celebrities. Brides are not just paying for the makeup they are paying for my vision also.
How did you get on the stage with Diljit Dosanjh?
All I can say is law of attraction (laughing) that day Reena (my side kick) and I we were working in London. We were running an hour late stuck in traffic! I was driving and I was absolutely shattered. We had had a 14 hour day. I was lucky that we had our tickets and my amazing friend Minu wanted to make sure we got the meet and greet tickets and sat at the front we wasn’t there for free like people think we were. I had paid for my ticket.
I called my other 2 friends and said I may not be able to come and to give my ticket to my sister. Reena was like you need to go! I remember saying to the girls that we need to do something to attract his attention a few days before! On the last gig we had been too I was wearing leggings and a bespoke t-shirt
I remember Diljit saying he wished he had seen British girls in the UK wearing patiala suits. I read between the lines on that one! I remember thinking we need to dress up for the gig in Leicester.The kurta boughtonline, the scarf from primark- our look was born! Lol
I was gifted these Timberland boots and I remember just saying let’s dress like panj taara video. We rocked it! Diljit favourite song is the one with Gurdass Mann! We got to Leicester and waited to meet Diljit!
I had gone live prior on Facebook and once it was our turn we sung the song to Diljit ‘Hello Hello’ we immediately caught his attention . The views were going up! Diljit was wondering who we were. People thought we were part of his crew (laughing). I was still live when he started his performance and its then and he called and invited me on the stage! The platform was huge. Diljit said quickly to me. I will follow your lead. I was shitting it (laughing) I simply went for it! All I was thinking about was my jeans were really loose and I thought they were going to drop off (laughing) but in that moment I had a lot of decisions to make. I’m a married woman and I was dancing on stage with a man. I was a Giddha dancer back in the day. I remember what my father in law had said to me to stop doing Giddha dancing once I got married which I was fine about. I respect that. One thing my husband said to me was if there was man you would leave me for that is Diljit Dosanjh (laughing) I used to say I want to dance with Diljit Dosanjh and I did it!
You set up a masterclass for make up how did that happen?
Yes I have and it was a huge success! It comes with what I’m doing and I have skills and tips that could be beneficial for people on professional and non pro basis. To be supported by international brand Inglot is huge! I want people to get to know me also and what I’m about and engage! The feedback was phenomenal! I cried when my PA told me that class was SOLD OUT! Our next masterclass is already planned!
Tell me about RPDiva Bindi’s
It was born because I always wear a round bindi. put a picture up about 6 years ago with me wearing a round bindi and my inbox simply went mad!I knew there was a market for this. I spoke with friend and now business partner for #rp products and the #rpdivabindi collection was born!
What is your biggest achievement?
My greatest achievement is my daughter and the genuine human being she is becoming! The compliments we receive about her are testimony to us, she is by far my greatest achievement. She is my pride and joy!
Your relationship with your daughter is amazing its mother and daughter but its like best friends isn’t it? Your quotes you put up is mainly dedicated to you daughter which I love.
Yes most definitely. You got it in one. If anything happens to me tomorrow she can see how much I love her. I would like to think I’m an influence for her and simply her greatest role model. She has no sibling’s and I want her to feel like she doesn’t need anyone that she can sit alone at the table and be content.
People may not like it on how I raise her, but were very free spirited in our parenting approach but clear boundaries which Jumeirah respects. My drive passion is because of her! I’m raising a Queen!
You are a gym freak have you always been this way or have you struggled with your weight?
No I struggle every day! I was size 18-20 back in the day. I struggle every day with my weight and always will! I have always been a big girl. I come from a family of big girls and a family of diabetes. Thanks to a friend of mine and the year I turned 30, i decided to make changes!i was fed up of being big. I did the Atkins diet- every diet going! I wasn’t happy and I was young. I had a great man by my side and I was thinking if I don’t do anything I will lose him!But he loved me for who I was. I know to this day he would never have left me size 18 or 8! It was me who needed to change for me!
The year I turned 30 I had enough and my health was not good. I went to weight watchers and 8 years on I’m keeping it off. I am fighting to be a slimmer more healthier person. I often say I am a big girl really on the inside, lol and I am not afraid to say that either. I only have to look at food and the weight piles on! Lol
I often look in the mirror I still see the big girl. But it is the way I feel that matters. I know I have to work on my self esteem and I battle with my weight like many others. I may come across as confident but guess that is what people want to see but I’m fighting my own battles too. People don’t see that. So simply I have to be a gym freak to keep my weight off! I love food way too much!
When you take off your work hat and you go home to chill what do you like to do?
I like to just sit with my house coat! (laughing)
My social life is with my clients. I don’t like going out anymore! Way to old for social club life! My house coat if anyone who does follow me on social media is my gown and my comforter (laughing) My comfort just being at home cleaning! I’m currently project managing my house renovation too which i plan to manage from start to finish! I’m a sucker for a good mood board!
I like to cook if my friends are coming around and love a good night in with the girls!
What is next for Ravita?
I have no idea! Yes professionally business goals and projection is set but I always say simply Watch this space.
Business wise I will continue to do what I’m doing. I didn’t ever think I would have a business let alone a brand. Let’s see what happens, I go with the flow. I thank everyday yet clearly imagine my future wishes personally and professionally huge huge believer in Law of Attraction!
There was a reason why I asked Ravita to be part my blog which I’m so glad that she agreed. Firstly its her honesty. She really says it. That’s what my blog is all about. Ravita is raw in this interview and she really opened up about her life and not just about her business and the make up world. I have to say I could not believe how much myself and Ravita have in common. I just love this girl. The relationship she has with her daughter is incredible. I love how she is all about female empowerment. There is a lot of people who say yeah they are all about females but then are not around when a person should be. Ravita really tries to help the ladies out there and I really hope everyone will share and support this blog. I am excited about this due to the fact we are very much alike.
Sunny is who I am today. I have changed my name by deed poll to Sunny Angel. I changed my name to protect my family from any shame of speaking out. I am a mother to a daughter called Maya. I have been married 4 times before the of 30, which many judge me by. I don’t like the feeling of being owned by anyone. I am strong minded and I have changed my life. I belong to me. I am also a Reiki Grandmaster. I do shooting competitions. There is so much to a person than being judged by their past. The past does not define anyone, it is a journey and not a competition. I have also started the Maya and Mum’s Diaries which is doing well.
What is your day job?
I am full time mum and I also do home schooling for Maya as she was bullied. So I basically teach my daughter what the school were meant to do. Now I want to help everyone. I do a lot of talks to empower women and men.
Before your book journey what was you doing then?
It has taken me a lot to recover within myself. But then I was hit with a stroke in 2011 and I was in a wheelchair and I was half paralysed. A lot of people noticed it recently on Facebook when I put a video up recently. My face looks paralysed. Half of my body isn’t synced properly. I had to learn to walk and talk again. My daughter was only 3 years old at the time. Myself and my daughter had to communicate through sign language. I have a hole in my heart and a cyst on my brain. So I didn’t want anything to happen to me. But I also was thinking about my daughter. It has been a tough journey but I am stronger for it.
Why did you change your name?
I have changed my name so my family won’t be identified and my standing up and speaking my truth to help others won’t cause them any shame. I believe my family did the best they could for their community and keeping up appearances within the society, but they didn’t do what was best for me. By me speaking up I hope to help other families so they can love their children without pleasing others. #LoveStartsAtHome #AbuseIsNotLove
Aged 3, you was abused, can you tell me about that?
I blocked a lot out as a Child. I was vulnerable. I was abused by a ‘family friend’. I was also bullied at home and at school. I had no one to ‘tell’. The abuse escalated from taunting to physical then sexual at the age of 3 to 11. I remembered more of my child sexual abuse when I had my head injury last year, it unlocked my blocked past and helped me heal . I mean at a young age was told that women are meant to be married off and I was taught how to cook and clean from a young age. I remember the house so clearly and the person who did this was aged 11-12 years old at the time. I knew it was wrong he was touching in wrong places. I remember the house of abuse so clearly and the person who did this.
How did it feel for you not being believed by your family when you told them of the abuse aged 3 that went on for a period of time?
When I first mentioned it I was young and naive, I didn’t realise it was abuse. I knew it wasn’t right and that I didn’t want to go to ‘Uncle’s house’. I was seen as being ‘difficult’. It finally ended when my older brother saw the Abuser on top of me and he told Mum. It was still swept under the carpet as Asians tend to victim blame and let abusers walk free. They use guilt and fear to control rather than using love and compassion to offer support. At the time I couldn’t understand what was happening. The abuser warned me ‘no one will believe you’ and I felt he was right. I was rejected and punished while he walked free. I was labelled as “dirty” and I couldn’t understand it. They told me not to tell anyone or they can’t marry me off. My earliest trigger memories were at age 6 until the recent head injury which brought them back to the first incident age 3.
Now at 17 years old, you met an older male named Khan. Who raped, tortured and manipulated you for years which has left you emotionally and mentally scarred. Can you go in to detail in regards to what happened?
At 17 I was going to College and studying A-levels then started working in a paper warehouse where he was a parcel delivery guy. I was commuting on the train. Khan was stalking me for a year. That was his name. I had no idea until the last 3 months when it became intense and he stopped me in my tracks and assaulted me. He threatened to hurt my family if I didn’t comply with his demands. He groomed me and held me captive. He tortured and raped me and forced me to commit crime. He would try to drown me and cut me up. Some occasions he locked me up in the boot of his car and would drive around. He even marked my body parts up threatening to cut me up. He was very controlling and I was very vulnerable. He took all the money I had and made me take out bank loans too. He threatened to sell me on after he finished with me. He had me in constant fear. Back then I didn’t know what Grooming was until I heard about on the TV. One thing I will always remember is he had a rope around my body and was walking through a park at about 3 am he used to take me out like a dog. It was humiliating it wasn’t all the time. I remember he said to me this is what love is.
I read a really distressing article headlines “Girl influenced by older man” The word influenced was used and not groomed. I mean you were 17 years of age and he was 40 years of age. Tell more about that article.
I was convicted of 5 counts of’ obtaining services by deception’ at Guildford Crown Court. The crime was hiring a car, You had to be 21! I was only 19! Khan would go and collect the car with his passport and driving license as ID and drive the cars and I was forced to call up as a secretary/PA. I wasn’t even old enough to commit the crime yet I pleaded guilty on all 5 counts and I was convicted. Khan walked free. In this case all the abuse was noted yet nothing was done. I was hoping to get 5 year jail term to avoid a forced arranged marriage as my suicide had failed. The Judge gave me a fine and a 12 months conditional discharge. The credit card that was used initially was my big brother’s card. All was on insurance. Not a penny was taken from his account. I never took anyone’s money. My brother chose to pursue me rather than Khan. A lot has changed in 20 years in regards to the attitude towards ‘grooming’ thanks to Mr Nazir Afzal OBE. I was groomed to commit crimes not ‘influenced’ I had no choice.
I also read in your book you had 60 open wounds on your back due to the abuse. Is that what your butterfly tattoo represents?
Yes. My back was covered with cigarette burns and whip marks and cuts from 1997. 20 years on many of the scars still remain as they were so deep. My daughter noticed and asked what they were. Going swimming it was hard to cover. I decided to transform the past into something beautiful and show my daughter my strength. I have a combination of 3 Wings : The Butterfly wings represent new life, Dragonfly wings represent Hope and Angel Wings for all the times I’ve fallen and been carried.
You had a forced marriage by someone you felt may have had learning difficulties. Can you tell me more about that situation?
I had a forced marriage. It was arranged in 1998 just as the court case was happening. I didn’t realise he had learning difficulties or mental health issues. Had I known I would have been happy to be his carer or handled things differently. *IF ONLY* Asians were more honest and open about matters. I was tricked into believing he was happy to be married to me, yet he didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. Someone else would be calling me pretending to be him. His Mother forced him to rape me as she was desperate for a Grandson. The marriage ended after 5 months due to dowry abuse.
Have you felt suicidal in any point in your life?
Yes. I tried to commit suicide aged 8, 12 and at the homeless shelter when I was 19 and I was hospitalised. And 2004 age 25 when I was widowed, (Hubby Ray died by hanging). Since then I promised myself that as death has rejected me I will not let my life be wasted I will use my life experiences to help others. I no longer feel vulnerable. I am a happy person living life to the full. I am a single Mum making happy moments and new adventures every day.
Losing Ray was a huge loss to you. Can you tell me more about your relationship and how you lost him?
I met Ray in 2002. It was a fairy tale romance. We met in the Bar as I was working 2 jobs to pay for my divorce and gold case. We decided to follow our dreams and go round the world and do as many adventures as possible. We did bungee jumping, flying in helicopters, snorkelling, climbing mountains, sailing, it was an amazing 100 days which ended in marrying in Fiji. Mum and Dad came to Fiji and walked me down the aisle. It really was magical. I suddenly became ill again and had to have another breast tumour removed and couldn’t work to pay the bills and a £10k loan. Ray stopped working to look after me. The bills spiralled out of control. I had the operation and was being tested for Cancer. The pressure was getting to us. Ray turned his hand to drug dealing for a quick fix. I didn’t approve, so we kept arguing. He continued behind my back. I was out of work for over a year and had 2 operations. I miscarried 3 months before Ray was found hanged. Ray went into bad company. We argued the night before he died. I have my regrets. He had family but they didn’t help him. All the loans and credit cards I had maxed out. I went bankrupt for £80k the following year due to bills.
Why did you write a book?
I wrote the book with my friend Paul. My reasons were because I’m not alone in suffering. Many still suffer. I want them to know its ok to come forward and get help. I hope that others will see what happens to vulnerable people and if only one person comes forward to help you can change someone’s life.
I love the titles of the chapters of the book as they represent films. Did you decide on the titles yourself?
Thank you. Paul was brilliant at the titles. I see life as a film and the characters we meet have such an impact. Paul was an amazing help putting the book together. We worked together back in 2001.
Maya is home schooled due to bullying. Can you tell me more about that?
Maya has been bullied at school for 2 years. Sadly the teachers didn’t help and had made Maya more vulnerable. As her parent and guide I refused to sit back and allow this to happen. So I now empower her by giving home school education. I am so proud of her, she’s doing so well.
You have become stronger in yourself do you agree?
Yes! I had a fear of water due to my past. I was scared to even wash my face and put water there. I knew I had to overcome it as Maya loves swimming. Also even now I am confident enough to turn my back away from the door. Before I was so scared, I used to sit in a corner and face the door. I have had therapy such as self healing. I am stronger within in myself.
Who are your role models and inspiration?
My Hero is Mandy Sanghera. Mandy is also my amazing Mentor I feel so blessed to have her guide me. Then there is Nazir Afzal OBE who I contacted via Twitter. They have really helped me.
You also did Zee Companion show how was that?
That was an amazing experience to share my story and to raise awareness.
You also attended and spoke at an Honour Abuse WOW event in Bradford with Jas Sanghera CBE how was that?
I really enjoyed speaking at the event and Jas is a great person. I was invited to speak alongside other survivors representing Karma Nirvana. I am now a Karma Nirvana Survivor Ambassador.
You also won the She Inspires award what an achievement?
Yes. The She Inspires Award was at Houses Of Parliament London. For international Women’s Day. This was organised by Inspiring Indian Women. It was an honour to recieve the award for the special mum catergory with my daughter Maya wit many inspirational people.
What is next for Sunny?
Well book two is in the making. Also all I want to do is help others. Raise awareness. Make a difference. Thank you for all the kind support. Keep shining
I met Sunny for the first time last year at an event. When I first met her she had such calm and beautiful nature about her. Sunny had her daughter with her Maya and you ca tell how much Sunny loves her and is a great mother. Myself and Sunny got chatting and we instantly became friends and she is such a beautiful soul. I would class Sunny as one of my dear friends who always tries to help others and empower others no matter how busy she is. Sunny’s strength i’m in awe off it isn’t easy speaking about such Taboo subjects and also carrying the trauma and scars with it. But this woman is such an amazing person. I really hope that you can show some love and support towards her.
I am a son of immigrants. I am the oldest child I spent three quarters of my time being an interpreter as my parents couldn’t speak English. This is why people think I was born in India as my Punjabi is very good but I was born here in the UK in Essex. I am father. I am a husband.
What was your childhood like?
I had a sheltered childhood. I spent a lot of time with my mother, my father had to go away a lot as my grandfather was very poorly and he had to spend 2 years in India. So my mum brought us up. My mother can’t speak English even now bless her. After my grandfather passed away my dad was back with us full time. Yet my mother is my main influence. People always thought I lived in a desi area. But actually I grew up in a village in Essex. There was only 10-15 Punjabi families the rest were majority white. When I went to secondary school there was only 2 Asians in the whole school. One was me and the other was a friend of mine called Patel. He had lots of brothers and sisters and his parents owned a corner shop. I’m not stereotyping but that was the case. I did not meet many Asians or grew up with any Asians until I went to University. As there was not many Asian families we were all close.
You like your Hindi films?
Yes! I am really into them and I was inspired by the actors like Dharmendar. I learnt my Hindi through watching films. When I was 14 years old my mother taught me Punjabi in 6 weeks I didn’t go to a Punjabi class or anything. This was in the school holidays. I did a GCSE and A-Level in Punjabi got A’s. I then watched a lot of Punjabi films and learnt a lot through there also. I love my comedy also.
Whats your day job for people who don’t know?
I am an immigration lawyer. I like to say that I change lives. I love what to do. I wanted to become a teacher in the beginning. But my dad was like no a solicitor. Or I wanted to be a singer (laughing) I practise immigration law and help them with getting status. I am the Visa man. You won’t become a millionaire doing what I do.
Before becoming an “immigration lawyer” what was you doing before that?
I was fitting windows with my dad. I couldn’t find a job when I graduated. I sent off hundreds of letters and only few people came back to me. I was fitting windows in a solicitors believe it or not. A guy came up to me and said what do you do? I remember saying I fit windows with my dad. But I do have a law degree but I can’t find a job. Then they said to me I will give you a job I will give you a break. They were impressed by my language skills.
How did you get into Law?
I had my break what I stated before. But I remember my best friend at the time in University his brother had a Law firm. I will give you a training contract and his brother was setting up and this was in Birmingham on the Stratford Road. I helped him and I even said to him lets advertise on the Asian channels. This guy never paid me he never gave me any money. In fact he made me sign on for job seekers and made me live with an illegal immigrants. Then he got an office and he used to make me sleep in the office with a little bed there. I was so used and abused, I was literally on my own in Birmingham. I used to live in a house with 8 illegal immigrants I have seen how they live. I saw it first hand. My worst bit was, I had to work Christmas day my mates brother who gave me this job. This guy he is a millionaire now. His company is everywhere. He is famous and that was all my idea. I remember calling home on Christmas day and I was crying to my mum. I remember my mum saying you are earning nothing you should be here with us. I then went to that guy and asked him for my training contract. This guy turned around and said “sorry I don’t have permission for that” I then fell out with my best friend over this as I said how could you let him use and abuse me like this. It wasn’t even my friend who told me about this it was his wife. My friend was backing his brother who was using me. I was just very upset about it all. My dad picked me up and I came back to Essex. Me and my friend no longer speak. I have seen him but makes no eye contact. Karma is a huge deal.
Also when I came back I went to work in a law firm in Ilford and I was working hard. I remember there is a time where you can become a partner. This day had come. I remember turning up and there was a box of all my stuff packed up and they told me to get out. It wasn’t even the senior partner who had told me it was my trainee. I wasescorted out of the building and I hadn’t even done anything wrong. There reason was they didn’t want me to be a partner.
After that I had enough of Law and started fitting windows again. I said to my dad I have to get an office in Southall if I want to make it in Law and run it myself. So for 3 weeks I was looking for some office space. I found one which was infested with pigeons and it was awful. So my dad took it upon himself and went to look for something for me. My dad went to Southall and found a place right near the Gurdwara near Havelock road and I signed a contract and I have been there ever since. I have 3 partners who have merged and doing well.
I read that, yourself and your wife were having trouble having a child before you had your daughter Khushi. You have been very open with that which many men do not do that. You had endless taunts from the community. Can you tell me about that? What kind of taunts?
Yes! In our community if you can’t have a child you are seen to be barron or there is something not right with you. There is words in our community they use it all. “banj” which means you are barron or even cursed. So into the marriage 1 year passed then 2 and then 3. People kept saying do you not want a baby? I was like where do I get one from are they available at Tesco? If it wasn’t from lack of trying we was trying. When we was ready to give up we had our daughter Khushi 5 years ago. The struggle getting therewas very very hard. I remember so clearly going to a wedding and y wife wanted to pick someone’s baby up and they wouldn’t let her as they they thought she may curse them! They made excuses about why she couldn’t pick the baby up. Came to a point where we stopped going to weddings as I couldn’t see my wife go through that or the pain. We had to put on a brave face. It was so cruel. People would avoid us. Not invite us to children’s parties. I mean that was our community. I always talk about issues what people don’t want to talk about.
We then had a daughter and people were like oh don’t worry you can try again as it wasn’t a boy. I was so happy that I had a daughter she has changed my life. I realise the outlook in life. I realise the struggle that women go through. Both my parents had no sisters. I had no sisters either. We didn’t grow up around women, I didn’t know how hard it was for my wife. I always put women first. I have seen our community at best or at their worst. I now am a father of 2 children.
Our community is quick to judge especially about IVF, Surrogacy and even Adoption. Do you agree?
Yes! We used to get a lot of taunts and comments said to myself and my wife. I said to my wife why don’t we adopt. I remember someone saying it won’t be your blood and that’s not good. I have blood that I don’t even talk too. I mean to its a little baby and I can’t understand why our community was against it. I have friends that are more loyal than family. Why does a child not deserve to have parents? Why we telling people what to think? Why do we care so much what the community thinks? People look down at people who adopt. Its really sad to be honest. IVF is another taboo people were quick to judge to say that wasn’t real it was done with an injection. When Surrogacy came up people said to my wife thatyou are not the real mother it wasn’t born from your womb. I can’t tell you how many comments we have gone through. They treat you terribly. If you listen to the community you will never have any children. Don’t care what the world thinks. We are quick to drag each other down.
We was judged. I mean as a male who do you talk too? I mean when you are having a drink with your mates the first thing people say is “Be a man” I mean I really don’t agree with that at all. Sharing your feelings is important. Mental health happens because we have no outlet to talk about their issues. We don’t have many Asian counsellors.
How tough was it for both of you dealing with the miscarriages?
Yes it was really tough. I remember when my wife had a miscarriage I was in the car and I had all my work colleagues with me. I couldn’t even cry I had to suck it all in. My wife was alone also. It is so hard going through that. More for my wife than myself. I couldn’t keep anything in because I would go mental! I don’t hold back and peoples opinions don’t run my life. I don’t feel like pleasing everyone. The community really don’t help. This is why Mental Health is such a massive problem because we hold a lot in. Talking about your feelings does not mean you are not man enough! You can’t please everyone. Myself and my wife never gave up and never gave up on having children. My wife is the opposite of me she is a very private person. As i’m very different quite out there. I put a post up about miscarriages and a lot of people had messaged me about that and stated they have been through the same journey. I even had someone say that their own mother ruined their marriage due to wanting kids. So everyone is dealing with something in their lives.
You have advocated against gender based violence. Is this something you have always had in your mind?
Yes the in equality in our community I wanted to do something about. I see Asian couples and yes a lot are from India. They come have the mentality of having daughter is not as good as having a son. I think sometimes how can I blame them when they are born into that society with that mentality. This has been going on for centuries. You have to try and change their mentality. I have Asian couples who come in here and they don’t even allow the women to even speak. I think that isn’t a relationship if the woman can’t speak. That’s the culture we come from. They say the men are Alpha males. The women sit at home. But things are changing. I say that its wrong. We should be treating both females and males the same. Maybe in India it will take time but in the UK i think its changing slowly.
You have your own show on MATV. How did that happen?
Well i started in radio when I was living in Birmingham. I used to live next door to Stratford Road Gurdwara. They used to have this 28 day radio licence Nankar Radio it was called. Once they invited me on there and asked me to talk about immigration. So I did. I was only meant to be on there for 30 minutes and there phones lines kept ringing! So I was shocked about that. People kept firing questions. I was there for over 90 minutes. They asked me to come back every week. I then took it to the next level and went to a radio station in East London called New Sound Radio that was above estate agents. So I thought lets take it on TV and did that with Vectone Punjab. It was just a camera and me. That was it. It became a hit. Then I went on to Radio XL I did that for a couple of years. Then someone from MATV approached me, they gave me a show every Friday for the last 10 years. I remember saying I want a show on a Monday also. I want to talk about the community issues. I just wanted to help people. I mean people thought I was a love doctor. They were asking me all kind of funny questions (laughing)
I mean i was then contacted by the BBC and did a show with Sonia Deol and then Nihal. That was where the “immigration guru” comes from. I do a lot of work with Sky TV.
You are a big supporter of Unique Home in Punjab. Why is that?
I support this massively yes. I remember I got contacted by a lady called Rupinder who told me about the charity. I asked where it was and its in Jalandhar. So I went there as I was travelling to India anyway and I wanted to check it out. I went there and there was about 30/40 girls there at that time. There is a lady who is so inspiring, her name is Bibi Prakash Kaur who picks these girls up from the street and help to educate them they rely mainly on donations and they receive no money from the government. They bring these girls up till they are married off or get settled in jobs. These girls are just abandoned. I remember they found one girl she was 2 days old and she was getting eaten by a dog. They pulled this baby from the dog’s mouth. I saw that girl she is now 16 years old. She has been raised by Bibi Prakash Kaur. Also there was a 3 year old she was abandoned at birth because she had 1 hand. As one of her arms were deformed she still had a arm. She was just abandoned. In front of the home there is a cradle, they say don’t dump them but them in this cradle. They found girls abandoned everywhere, railways, ditches and even on the side of the road. I have been doing this for 5 years now. I think women empowerment is so important.
You also do a lot of interviews for Punjab2000. Do you enjoy that? How did that happen?
Yes they approached me. We would like you interview someone in Punjabi and I agreed and I have been with them ever since. They call me when they need me. I have met Kareena Kapoor, Deepika and Akshay Kumar. I also host charity events also mainly Unique Home. I did a show for Sharry Mann.
You was also involved with Ross Kemp’s Britain documentary. How did that happen?
Yes! Ross Kemp came to my office and it was shot in my office also. I took him around everywhere and in Southall. I remember people messaging me saying are you walking down the road with Grant Mitchell from Eastenders? (laughing)
It was an eye opener for him seeing immigration first hand but he has see a lot worse. I showed him where the illegal immigrants live and how they live. We got on really well he is a great guy. He is a East End guy to he is from Barking. It was a very interesting experience.
You also have been in a Bollywood film where you played yourself.
Yes! Funny story! I don’t answer my phone on weekends normally especially private numbers. But someone called me from India. I even said I can’t give you advice in regards to Visa’s. I remember the guy was from Bombay. They said no we want you to be in a film we have seen your YouTube channel. I honestly thought he was joking. The film starred Jimmy Shergill and Neeru Bajwa.
The man said check it all out and it was legit. They said no we want you to play yourself it was shot in Canada for 2 weeks. I have done 2 Punjabi films. I have been offered other roles due to my son being born I didn’t do it.
You are also charity champion for “Me Too” raising awareness for children with disabilities.
Yes I still do this. I went to Geneva with them. Parmi does a great job. She has a had a tough journey and she loves her kids. I also check the charities before I involve myself. They are a fantastic charity.
You have a massive social media following don’t you?
Yes it has grown! I think it is down to my shows but I also add comedy too. I mean your blog is “Just Say It How It Is” I have the ability to say it how it is. I say whats on my mind. I even tell my parents if they are wrong. I don’t mince my words I just say it. I give them a reality check. I know my topics.I think people like that. I’m learning everyday.
You are very vocal as you have said do you think because of that have you ever received any backlash and negativity?
Yes I do but I have a way of dealing with it. I only see negativity if my aim is to please everyone and I don’t sit there and please everyone. I say what I think is right. I remember girls coming from India as students and then working as prostitutes in Southall this was what I presented on my show. There was a massive problem there 200-300 girls at the time. It was open and people knew about it. Everyone was turning a blind eye. I remember someone called through on the show, this male said you should not be talking about that. It needs to be undercover. I mean I was like no we should be talking about it these parents are sending their daughters to the UK thinking they are studying and they can’t go back as the parents want money. The parents weren’t even asking where the money was coming from. I mean they even said marry anyone and then bring us over. The burden is on the daughters.
The most negative thing I’ve heard about myself personally is that i’m rude and arrogant. I’m 42 years old and I live with my parents in a 3 bedroom house and I have nothing to be arrogant about. I haven’t got brand new cars I mean my car is from 2006 and i’m not a millionaire and i’m standard guy. People assume I have a lot of money and a 8 bedroom house! But I don’t. I think the people who think I am rude I think that’s because the truth hurts. People don’t like hearing about their ugly characters. Don’t stress over shitty people. Especially when people don’t know you. Let them judge.
Do you get a lot of people wanting your advice for free? Whether its on Social Media or Face to Face?
All the time. While I have been sitting with you I have had about 15 messages. I just say ring the office number now. 99% of the time people only want to talk to me for advice nothing more.
About 2 weeks ago I was telling everyone that I had a child on TV and I had 8 callers and out of the 8 only 2 congratulated me. I mean they had no interest. I mean they is no manners lately. We need to learn from that. Its amazing what lengths people go for a visa.
I mean I charge £25 for advice. People hate paying that. I don’t care what people think I just block and delete.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Becoming a dad to my daughter is by far my biggest achievement
But on a professional level being interviewed by Ross Kemp, Panorama and Sky. I have never won an award in the UK not even nominated. The only time I have won an award is in India. Which people are really surprised. I’m also the first Asian Immigration lawyer to be on Panorama and with Ross Kemp. I was listed on Wikipedia as the first Asian Lawyer. I had 4 million hits on YouTube for my show.
What advice would you give anyone who is wanting to go into Immigration?
Learn a language. It is real important. It will help you and don’t be ashamed of your roots. Get some experience. You need to see real clients. Don’t expect to be a millionaire doing Immigration. Make sure you really study. Just focus and don’t let people to distract. Getting into law is hard.
What’s next for Harjap?
Who knows! Lets see what the future holds.
It was a real pleasure meeting Harjap he’s a real down to earth and funny guy. He really is about women empowerment. So please share and support his story.
What a great question! Jas is a very outgoing person. I like to go out with friends and family. I like to eat out and I’m a social person. People call me a social butterfly (laughing) I am a very organised person. They do say Capricorn’s are very organised people (laughing) I like to meet deadlines! I’m also very bubbly too. I live with my mum, dad, my brother, sister-in-law and my 2 nephews aged 9 and 3.
What is your day job and other charities you are part of?
My day job is that I’m a Recruitment Officer for Shared Services (HR) for West Midlands Police. I’m involved in a lot of charities. I’m the Secretary of the West Midlands Police Sikh Association. I’m part of the Disability Carers Network, Women In Policing. Last but not least I’m also a unison rep. I like to help people.
Not many people know that in 2010 you were diagnosed with MS, Can you explain in your own words what that is for anyone who doesn’t know?
Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological condition it affects 100,000 people in the UK. It is a condition not many people are aware of. There are different parts of MS such as relapse remitting or progressive. The difference is that with relapse you can get a bit of a relapse but you can bounce back to normal. Progressive is you see the person get progressively worse.
What are the daily symptoms of having this condition?
MS can affect everybody differently. It can be eyesight loss, weakness in different parts of the body. Mobility issues getting around can be much harder.
How does MS affect your day-to-day routine?
It does affect my day-to-day routine; I have to think will a toilet be near to me, would I have to walk too much. Will there be stairs. I have to prepare for my day. Which I don’t think is bad but I have to deal with it. I have to mentally prepare in my mind what needs to be done. I do need help with mobility. I do need to sometimes hold on to someone’s arm now to walk around. But I am a very stubborn individual. People say there are mobility aids out there use them. But I don’t want to use mobility aids I don’t think I ever will. I know my own mind and I will continue to do what I need to do in my life. I want my own independence.
You are known to say sorry every time you ask for help in regards to your mobility and I know that as you have done this with me. Why do you feel like you have to apologise for something you can’t control?
For me saying sorry it’s a natural thing for me. I say sorry a lot. I can’t help that. I have good manners. I actually feel bad in myself as I could be walking and there is a queue at the back of me and I’m holding everyone up. I have to say sorry.
I remember you saying to me that MS robs us our abilities and independence, what did you mean by that?
It does. But I’m trying to change that for myself personally. I have seen a lot of people notbeen able to do certain things and going places due to MS. They can be scared of going places and scared what people may say. It is a hidden disability. It is quite bad. For me, I have to change that for myself. I don’t care what people think of me. Especially the Asian communities as I have come across a lot of ignorance towards this disability. As they see you are fine for one moment and then you get up and you struggle with your mobility you see the looks across the room. “Such as what’s wrong with her” or “why is she walking like that”. It can be difficult. But it’s something you have to deal with. People can be very judgemental. Yes, I had to hold your arm whilst walking from the taxi to the restaurant. I mean so what? Now I think this is me. Love me or hate me I don’t care anymore. This is who I am. I will live the way I will live. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. Or judge my abilities. I have proved people wrong. For example my first aid course, a lot of people said to me you can do it. However, there were reasonable adjustments made so that I could do it. I’m proved to myself that I can do it. I passed.
I have been with you in certain places where you feel as you are being judged; do you feel this way on a regular basis?
Yes. I do feel people judge. But I feel that more with the Asian communities. Then the western community. They don’t look at you with judgement. They accept you for who you are. They want to help. If they see me struggle they run to help. That’s nice that people want to help me. There is a good side to everyone. That’s me as an individual. For example, going to my local Gurdwara to do my prayers and I used to go every morning. As my MS progressed and I was less stable on my legs. I felt when I was there especially the elderly community would look at you, frown at you and make you feel really uncomfortable. Now I don’t go as much as I would like. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. But it’s the way they have made me feel.
Has anyone said anything negative to you about having MS?
No, not directly. I get the looks. I am a very lucky person. I have a very supportive family. Very supportive friends. They haven’t stopped going out with me just because I have a disability. They help me and don’t go out without me. I’m very lucky. I have emotional intelligence and I know by looking at someone what they are thinking most times.
You are a strong woman and having MS hasn’t stopped you from getting promoted or even contributing to other charities, why do you think that is?
I am strong yes. I think I have a positive attitude. I won’t allow MS to rob my happiness and yes I do have a deteriorating condition. I wasn’t born with it. But I won’t allow it to affect me. This condition has made me change my way of thinking now and just try and be strong and positive.
As you stated there is a lot of ignorance from the Asian community in regards to your MS do you have any issues and pressure about settling down?
I am so lucky as I have a very supportive family who understands my condition. They say to me we don’t mind when it happens, if it happens or who it will be. However, when my disability was more manageable and less noticeable. I had a lot of people asking for my hand in marriage and asking questions about me and asking my age and when I would be ready for settling down. But I wasn’t interested at the time. My family never put any pressure on me. But as soon as people saw my MS deteriorate can you believe no one asked again. It shocks me. It’s the ignorance once again. But I don’t care. It just makes me a bit angry about the Asian Community there thought process. Just because I have MS doesn’t mean I can’t get married, or kids or have a career.
Who has supported you apart from your family?
Everyone that I know has supported me through my journey one way or the other. However, my special dedications go to my immediate family and friends that include my favourite people who have supported me through all my highs and lows both personally and professionally with their guidance and honesty. I feel that they have never judged me and are always there for me. Dean Sweet, Khizra Dhindsa, Harjinder Kaur, Suneeta Kaur Seera, Saran Heer and Kully Klair. Without their one to one support and guidance, my personal journey would have been very difficult. They are my friends for life and I am a very lucky girl to have them in my life.
You were nominated for the humans of West Midlands Police. Can you explain what that is for people who don’t know. Also how did you feel being on the wall of fame?
Yes, it was a privilege to be asked to participate for the Humans of West Midlands Police to celebrate the Black History Month. It was more for the public to see the faces that work for West Midlands Police along with their stories. It felt a privilege to be on the wall of fame and I felt very proud as I am very passionate about my job, department and the Force.
You help a lot with Unison as you are rep. Why did you become a rep, what does it mean for you?
I became a Unison Rep to support people. I noticed that people needed support in their employment and sometimes were unable to get representation when needed. I wanted to become a Unison ambassador for my current department and location so that people could see the activist and approach me to discuss problems before they went out of hand. I am a girl with strong ethics, principles and honesty. Therefore, can not see any wrongdoings and always wants to help people. I am even approached outside of work where strangers feel that they can approach me to speak and discuss any issues! I feel proud that I am able to help people to resolve any problems.
Also, you were a special constable before you found out you had MS. How and why did you want to do this? Was it always in your mind to join the police?
I’ve always wanted to join the Police Service and my inspiration came from watching my favourite TV programme ‘The Bill’. Although I now understand that it does not quite work like ‘The Bill’. I was a Special Constable for 7 years and enjoyed every moment being an Operational officer. It was unfortunate that I had to resign when I realised that I was no longer able to carry out the operational duties due to my mobility restrictions. But I still didn’t give up instead I adapted to do something new and became an Avon representative and to date still, carry out this role. They say if one door closes the other opens but you have to grab the opportunity with both hands.
People say you are an inspirational person as you let nothing get you down. How do you feel when some say this to you? I believe it to be true.
I’m not sure why a lot of people say that I am inspirational. I never understand why, to be honest, I just try to lead my life normal to everybody else. The only thing is that my attitude is that I will never give up. If I fall 4 times I will get up 8 although yes, it does make me shed tears for a short while due to the daily challenges that I have I have to get up and try to lead a normal life just like everyone else. It does make me feel proud of myself as I try not let people down and people say I am always smiling.
You stood up recently at our Police Event and talked about your journey in having this condition and you had amazing feedback. How did you feel delivering your speech?
This wasn’t the first speech I had delivered. However, the number of people I had to deliver to this time was 200 people which was a large audience. I was nervous. But as soon as I started talking as I was talking from my heart it came naturally. I felt confident in delivering it. I remember looking up and everyone was looking at me and it was dead silent and in my mind, I thought oh god I hope I’m not boring them (laughing) which was a natural reaction. (laughing)
After I delivered it I had such positive feedback I felt like I was a celebrity and people were sharing their conditions with me. I felt like my speech went so well. Other people were talking about their family’s condition as well. Overall it went really well. The main thing that people were shocked about was my attitude towards MS and how I deal with it face on. It made realise how it can help to talk about it.
You are training our Assistant Chief Constable in regards to disabilities how did that happen?
I got selected by management to start a course on reverse mentoring this Jan 2017. I was determined to do it. I did the course and then you get matched with a person. I was extremely lucky to be matched with who I have. I have educated him on disability and also the Sikh culture. I’m actually learning a lot from him too.
You have a word press called Sikhswithms, how did that start and why did you want to set this up?
The reason I started my blog was that there is a lot of ignorance around MS but not only MS other disabilities. It was to reach out to other people who are suffering from this disability. I wanted to raise awareness not just for the Sikh community but for anyone. For people to remain positive. Looking at the thing’s in a different way and I wanted to inspire people.
I believe we need to raise more awareness in regards to MS so people are aware. I mean we talk of other disabilities but not much on MS do you agree?
Yes, I totally agree. MS is known but it is not really talked about and it’s that ignorant factor again. We need to raise more awareness, especially in the Asian community.
Do you feel that you get treated differently by having MS?
Yes, I do. I am going to put a positive spin on it instead. (laughing) Like today I booked a table I had to tell them of my disability and they had to make reasonable adjustments for me. I struggle with my mobility now. Even if you have a disability you can still do it and still go places!
What advice would you give someone who is going through the same as you in regards to having MS?
I say one thing, Don’t give up. I get frustrated when I can’t do something and it takes me longer. But we have to stay positive and do things in your own time. Don’t let other peoples judgement upset you. Sometimes I go to my room and lock the door and have a cry. Then carry on. Just don’t give up. As long as you get up again that’s the main thing. But having humour can help also.
Do you have any uplifting words you want to say in regards to yourself and journey?
Life is a struggle, never give up. That’s all I can say. There will be good and bad times.
Jas Kaur is one of my closest friends. So writing this blog about her journey and herself was very important to me. If anyone knows Jas she is one of the kindest and funniest people. No matter what gets her down she gets up and carries on. I have known Jas for a while now and there isn’t a dull moment with her. The positive attitude she carries inspires me and makes me so proud to have a friend like her. Not many know about MS and this was one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog with her. It is her first ever blog where she disclosed her own personal issues and I am so happy she decided to write it with me.
I can talk for England! But I am energetic, passionate and very driven. I see directions rather than obstacles and then I see the end result. I have been doing this for 25 years. I was brought up around music. I grew up with nothing and we all lived in one bedroom with 2 families. You learn to appreciate the little things in life. To achieve something that’s Parv in a nutshell.
Before the music what were you doing before that?
Before music, I was in Year 8 trying to pass my GCSE’s (laughing) I was getting told off by my mum. I remember my mum was getting me to get in the kitchen to learn how to make roti and sabji’s (Indian curries) I remember saying no I want to play music. I want to play my Dhol and my Dholki. I picked up a martial art and I trained for 10 years also. I was a black belt! I was then teaching other martial arts. My family also did martial arts. In my heart music was inside me. A passion. If I didn’t have that then I think I’d be in the martial arts game.
What is your day job?
I am a computer science lecturer. As I knew I couldn’t rely on music as a profession as I’m female and it’s a male industry. I took up a day job there are many struggles with that. I went and studied at college. I then fell into computer science
Do you play any other instruments other than Dhol?
Yes! My baby is my dhol. But because of my musical background, I picked up Dholki, Tabla and harmonium also drums. In the ’90s there was no studio’s obviously in my father‘s musical background all rehearsals were at home. So that’s where I picked up how to play. I just wanted to learn everything.
You picked upon that your father was in a band back in the 1960s do you always get tied to your dad and what he did musically?
Yes and no. My dad is 65 years old. He has more gig’s than me (laughing) As it is a male-dominated industry you have to remember that. It was hard. I mean when there was a gig the men were the musicians. No women came to weddings. The cameraman was male even down to the caterers. So when I fell into music I used to love going to the gigs. But it was all men. There was never ever women. So that really hit home for me.
Before setting up Eternal Taal where was your first performance?
I was performing a lot with my dad. In the 90’s they were at their peak. I remember sitting at a wedding at the back with my Dhol and no one could hear me but I was playing. But the band consisted of family. So I never felt out of place. I remember doing Vaisakhi shows. I was young and I was about 13 years old. My music teacher was a massive part as she was pushing me to do my best with it. But at home, my mum wasn’t happy about me playing. I knew I could achieve something more with music. My dad never stopped me he was very encouraging. I was the only one who was into music out of my siblings.
Why the name Eternal Taal?
My dad, he loves movies so when ET came out he named me ET. He loved the film. That film my parents went to watch at the cinema. My dad said no matter what boy or girl I will name them ET. So I was born and my nickname was ET. So growing up with that name it could be embarrassing. So whenever I did shows they used to call us out as the ET Dhol Group. As I got older I wanted to change the name. I was a Tomboy growing up so my friends were male. Then we came up with the name Eternal Taal. I didn’t want Dhol in the name. So I wanted to mix it up to a wider audience.
Why did you set Eternal Taal up?
As it was just me and I was playing with my dad. I managed to get a job and I did my driving lessons with that but I also saved every penny I could. I also did strawberry picking and I was saving a pound a box at the age of 14. I purchased my own car when I was working at Mcdonalds. My dad I didn’t want to rely on. I wanted to start something where females can be part of it.So I started it with 2 of my friends and it was different and this was in 1999. It was different because a girl was playing. This is what I wanted to achieve.
Eternal Taal hasn’t just set standards in the UK Bhangra industry but has broken through to Non-Asian Industry. Do you agree?
Yes! I definitely have done that. I need to encourage females a lot more. But there is so much I want to do. I wanted to change mindset. I have Muslim, Gujarati and English students it a big mixture. Its for the wider audience. They feel comfortable in my class. As I am female also. We have approached by a lot of people. As we stand out as we are females. We are different and we are females that can play. I can’t remember the last time I played at an all Punjabi gig. We have a brand also.
In 2010 you were awarded the “contribution of Bhangra Music in the UK” How was that for you?
It was amazing! Not only were we awarded in the House Of Commons we also performed there as well. So we actually opened the ceremony. There was a mixture of people. We rocked that place! The atmosphere was just brilliant. It was such a big achievement. This was my most memorable experience for me. I can’t explain it.
What was the most memorable place you performed?
All the stages for me is memorable no matter where you play that’s a memory for me. But I have to say Glastonbury. We took ET members and even a 9-year-old performed. They saw us perform somewhere else and we was asked to perform. That was just something else! That stage was mad. We was camping there. Just brilliant.
Have you ever performed where someone was rude to you or was negative?
Yes many times! Especially at Asian Punjabi gigs and the males will look at you and say oh you are playing Dhol. You know like I shouldn’t be there! They judge us. That wasn’t easy. But that was a while ago. But now things are changing. I think it was the fact we are girls. I have been sworn at and told to get off the stage. You wouldn’t get that now. We have progressed a lot more now.
Who was the most memorable person you played with?
My dad without a doubt and with his band. I mean I remember performing with DCS at my sisters wedding and I was only 16 years old. That was was mad. I loved it. I was fortunate to have music in my blood.
I remember watching a documentary of your dad and you was in there “Sikhs Of Smethwick” How was that talking about your experiences?
It was a great experience. I wasn’t nervous in speaking about it. It was great that they did a documentary of my dad he retired that day. It all fell into place. But having mainstream TV channel want to talk to someone from Smethwick and what he did on a daily basis is just massive. They interviewed my mum as well. My dad was singing to my mum ( laughing) It was a great documentary. My mums marriage was based on late nights and the band rehearsing it was hard for them. They worked so hard. It was so different back then.
Being a female and in a predominately male industry. Was it hard for people to take you seriously?
No one took me seriously or even the team! It was really hard when it did take off I had to work extra hard. I had to get many girls to join it took me 5 years to do this. As girls didn’t want to do music as some females weren’t allowed. In 2007 we had then more females. The males in the group couldn’t handle it. The transition was hard. We had people saying negative things online. It was hard. But now we are here and becoming successful in our own right.
What motivated you to do the Dhol Classes?
It was ideally to get girls to join the Dhol class. This all started in 1999. I remember the place was small. I printed the flyers in school and since then my classes have grown.
Who is your inspiration and role model?
My dad. I’m saying my dad and also all the Bhangra legends as they lived of their passion. They didn’t do it for money or You Tube hits as that wasn’t around. But it was driven with passion. They performed in all places. The day timers were the biggest! My first day timer was RDB and Sahara and I will never forget that! So my inspiration is too all the Bhangra Legends.
There was a debate recently about Men saying that women shouldn’t be dancing to Bhangra or even playing instruments. What’re your views on that?
Yes I heard that! I think its stupid. Its that mentality that stops girls doing music. There is no academy out there to help girls to achieve music. I feel really angry about this. For me I need a contract when I take a gig so everyone is on the same page. But girls should be able to do what they want. If they want to do music they should be able to do this. Things are slowly changing. But we need to push more.
Are your family supportive in what you do?
Yes everyone supports me. Even my friends of 20 years are still with me and support me. My husband is not in the music scene and it works. I wanted to find someone who was the complete opposite. I like fact we are opposite. My husband doesn’t judge and he’s just a great person and isn’t into music. He supports me with everything.
You are so energetic and positive have you always been that way?
Yes! I like to be a positive. I always talk about things that people don’t like talking about. I can’t help that. But I am vocal in that way. But I always stay up beat. Also I have had backlash because of that. But I run a business where I safe guard my team also. But you have to speak your mind. I’m very loyal to my team. I also make sure my team where the Eternal Taal uniform. Its our branding. People have tried to be negative about that. But I try and stay upbeat for myself and my team. Our uniforms make us stand out.
You ran the 5K for the Inspirational Sikh Women in Dubai tell me more about that?
I was nominated by a few media friends for the ‘Inspirational Sikh Women’ award from the Sikh Channel. 20 Inspirational women were chosen for the award and we were given the opportunity to represent the Sikh Channel at the 5K Dubai run. This was of course a brilliant opportunity to get to know other inspirational Sikh women and take part in something I wouldn’t normally do. Initially I actually thought I would only be performing with my Dhol but listening to the other girls, they motivated me to actually take part in the event. With the help of Sikh channel and Dubai organisers Plan B, the experience was truly unforgettable. I made lifelong friends and performed internationally once again with my Dhol.
You are the Young Ambassdor for World Bhangra Council, how was that for you?
I am UK’s first Female Dhol player who has been performing since 1993 inspired by my musical father Balbir Bhujhangy. My aim has always been to encourage other girls to take up a male dominating instrument breaking all barriers and stereotypes. With such an online presence and great profile the BBC world News wanted to interview me about my 25 year musical journey. The documentary released in Nov 2017 went viral with over a million hits. A non asian Music charity called ‘Music for All’ and a world renowned music organisation ‘World Bhangra Council’ saw the documentary and were both amazed by my passion, energy and journey thus asking me to be an ‘Ambassador’ for their organisation. Another huge step in my musical career building a good profile inspiring others and keeping my passion alive.
You was also one of the 100 masters for the Black Country what an achievement!
Yes I was so shocked but so privileged to be recognised as well as my father.
What is next for Parv?
Who knows you will have to wait and see! I want to work with Beyonce! (laughing) Her whole band is female and she is all about female empowerment. I am married will be probably start a family soon. Then I have my nephews and nieces that I love to bits.
I met Parv and I was struck by how positive this lady is! Not only that she laughs and is just so energetic. Her passion for music is incredible but she has many struggles to get to where she is. She has been in the industry many years and she is not the kind of person to give up. Her love for student and Eternal Taal is brilliant. But Women Empowerment is a massive part of her journey. No matter how much music is a male dominated industry she kept flying the flag for women!