By Matt Lundy
Raveena Aulakh started her career writing soft features about Bollywood stars and the Dalai Lama’s celebrity friends for the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English-language dailies. It sounds glamorous, but she describes feature writing in her native country as frothy, frivolous and “just not interesting writing.” So after five years of newspaper writing in India, she wanted to shake-up her career.
“The entire idea of working for fair, well-written newspapers was very appealing,” says Raveena. “I just wanted a big change.”
Some of Raveena’s extended family had immigrated to Ontario, so she decided to enroll at Western – in part to ease the transition of moving to Canada, but also to become a better writer. That choice has already paid dividends in her journalistic career. Since graduating from the program in 2007, Raveena has established herself as one of the country’s finest young journalists as a general assignment reporter at the Toronto Star.
Raveena says she uses her South Asian descent – and her ability to speak four languages – as a way of finding stories that might otherwise go unreported at her newspaper, particularly those about immigration issues. “I don’t need a translator and I don’t need to win the confidence of South Asian immigrants,” she says. “I’m able to do way more stories as opposed to people who don’t speak too many languages and who don’t have the background of having lived elsewhere.”
For one of Raveena’s most memorable stories – a feature about the mass exodus of young men from Punjab villages to Canada's West, and the subsequent fallout for their families back home – she mined her own upbringing in a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas, where a similar scenario played out countless times. Her feature for the Toronto Star brims with rich detail and an insider’s knowledge of the issue. It also landed her a National Newspaper Award nomination in the International Reporting category.
Raveena describes herself as “restless” and as someone who likes “to do something new every few years.” That’s why she enrolled at Western and kick-started a vastly different career in journalism. It’s also why she hopes to pursue documentary filmmaking in her future. But regardless of the medium or where her restlessness takes her, there is one constant in Raveena’s career: “All my life, I’ve just known that the one thing I want to do is tell a story.”
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