Saira Menezes – Mangalorean Star
I am a Bombayite. I was born in Dr Rao’s nursing home in Andheri East on February 27, 1971. And I spent most of my life in this suburb, living in a tiny East Indian village called Gundavli Village off the bustling Andheri-Kurla Road. Here the world was divided largely between Mangaloreans and East Indians, which on some occasions gave rise to interesting situations.
My parents, like most of the Mangaloreans in my village, were first-generation migrants to Bombay. My dad had lived variously in Fort and Byculla, until he finally reached Andheri, becoming a neighbour to a man who was to be his brother-in-law.
Bernard Menezes, my dad, was roughly 12 when he left Balkunje in Mangalore. He came here to find himself an education and a life. A night school student, he did a string of jobs before finding himself in Blitz, then India’s most vibrant weekly paper. By the time he retired, he had risen to head the reference section of Blitz. My mom, Eliza Rodrigues, was 19 when she came to Bombay from Gurpur, Kaikamba in Mangalore. She lived in Santa Cruz with her cousin’s family till she married my dad.
I am proud to be a Mangalorean, more so after a recent visit to Mangalore on an assignment for a travel book brought out by Outlook. I discovered that the earth you get from Mangalore is without equal, which is why Mangalore tiles are the best in the country. I am convinced now that Mangaloreans, made of this same earth, are blessed with talents and qualities that are beyond compare.
From the very beginning, my ties with Mangalore have been very strong. In the early years, our neighbours were my cousins — my mom’s older sister lived next door. The three of us — Santosh, Saira and Sameera — grew up with our cousins — Prem, Preema and Preeth. It was a blessed childhood. Lots of love, lots of singing (lots of Konkani songs in fact), and lots of young uncles and aunts trooping through the house. The family is large and now dispersed — most in the Middle East — but my siblings are still in Mumbai. My brother Santosh, works in the Times of India as Senior Manager in the Response section and my sister Sameera, works for a public relations outfit called CMCG which handles communications for HBO, ESPN, Cartoon Network and CNN among others.
I studied in the convent-run Canossa High School in Andheri East and was its head girl. It was a small school, with two divisions which meant that the nuns and the teachers were part of our personal lives. I was a good student, ranking among the top three in class, with a passion for dramatics and writing. I used to write a lot of poetry which got published and on occasion won prizes in local newspapers.
I went to MVLU college for two years during which I was named best student of the year and after that joined St Xavier’s College to graduate in English Literature. And then a miracle happened. The day I got my graduation marksheet was also the day I was offered a job in the special projects section of the Times of India. So I haven’t been educated and unemployed even for a day! I didn’t last very long here as I wanted to quickly get down to the business of writing. And the first opportunity that came my way was as a trainee reporter in Savvy magazine. From Savvy, I joined the Sunday Observer as correspondent, followed by the yet-to-be-launched Outlook weekly newsmagazine as principal correspondent. While in Outlook, I was awarded the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship, funded by the British Foreign Office. Soon after, I went back to Savvy as its editor, and revamped the magazine. Two years later, I joined Sunday Mid-Day (the weekend edition of the hugely successful Mumbai noon paper, Mid-Day) and helped restructure it.
I have been fortunate. Not very many in my profession and at my age get to work on relaunching a magazine and a newspaper within the short period of three years. Plus I have worked with very good people — Aakar Patel, Bachi Karkaria, Ingrid Albuquerque, Nari Hira, Meenal Baghel, Tarun Tejpal, Trupti Kotecha, Vinod Mehta –people with integrity, ethics and vision. Consequently my role models have been people who have been part of my life — both personal and professional.
My greatest hero has been my dad. Without his guidance, his encouragement and his steady presence, I might have given up even before I started out. Also, my husband Shishir Joshi, a journalist himself, who is currently Mumbai bureau chief of Aaj Tak. From him I have learnt the art of perseverance and the ability to always be optimistic — valuable tools for a journalist.
When the Week selected me to be on their list, I was surprised. I had never seen myself as a rising star, merely as one who enjoys her work and gives it her very best. I am grateful for their recognition.
But I also know that this is not enough.
Saira’s Future Goals:
“My goals are pretty simple. Professionally, I’d like to continue being a journalist because I think that is the only thing I can do, and the only thing I want to do. Within the world of journalism, I hope opportunities will come my way by which I can continue experimenting and doing different things.
On the personal front, I’d like to be able to spend more time with my family.
Now if I can only figure out how to make both goals compatible!”
Saira’s Message to mangalorean.com readers and especially the youth:
“For all the young people reading this, I’d like to say: It’s never enough. Because you have only one life, so live it well, live it skillfully, live it with integrity. And if ever in doubt, listen to your heart.”
Mangalorean.com wishes Saira and her husband Shishir all the very best in their future endeavors.
Submitted By: Queenie Mendonca, USA
Stany Passana, India:
Hello Saira. Congratulations. I am reading this article after several years of its publication. Thanks to the Electronic Media.
I was just preparing a write-up to market my Immovable Property (Real Estate) to our Mumbaikars from Mangalore.
I already have quite a few of them in my client list, come back and settled comfortably in Mangalore, leading a peaceful, retired life. As you rightly said about Mangalorean Earth. I say, “Earth Calling” for their Happy Home Coming. Live Well, live skillfully and live with intigrity. Live in Mangalore.
TSERING DOLKAR, India:
“Nice autobiography”. living in bombay, still proud of being a Manglorian….preserving your identity….really nice. ALL THE BEST, MAY YOU RISE AND SHINE LIKE A GLITTERING STAR.