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The Light Files - Ruchi Mukherjee

Ruchi Mukherjee

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She was a crime beat reporter in India before launching her Houston-based South Asian society news magazine. Laura Max interviews Ruchi Mukherjee, founder and editor of Lights Camera Action.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of The Light Files on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I am here in Neiman Marcus today, which my guest, Ruchi Mukherjee, calls her second home. Welcome to the show, Ruchi.

Ruchi: Thank you so much. And yes, gallery is a second home.

Laura: And Ruchi is much more than just an avid shopper, and quite the fashionista, if I might say so myself. Ruchi is actually a former reporter for Times of India and Statesman, and she now writes her own online Web publication called Houston Lights, Camera, Action, where she reports on Houston society news and South Asian and mainstream culture. Ruchi, welcome to the show.

Ruchi: Thank you, Laura. Thank you so much. It's great to be the other side.

Laura: I know, right? You're usually the reporter.

Ruchi: Asking questions. But it's wonderful, thank you.

Laura: Well, it's so great to have you on here, 'cause I actually met you a few weeks ago, after really only knowing you through Facebook. And you were just such a vibrant character; you were so fascinating. I went home after I met you and I was just telling my boyfriend, "This girl I just met today, she's so cool, she's so dynamic." So I can't wait for more of our viewers and our listeners to hear your story. So tell us about your career. You started working for Times of India and Statesman?

Ruchi: Okay, with all the dolled up and hat and all, yes, I was a crime beat reporter. Crime beat reporter.

Laura: A crime beat reporter? This does not look like a crime beat reporter. Those of you listening can't see her; she's wearing a fabulous hat.

Ruchi: A crime beat reporter in India, Kolkata. I covered mainly the Sonagachi, the red-light district in Kolkata, which is the most notorious neighborhood from strong - you know, being prostitution, _____ and everything, but you don't say "prostitution" anymore; we say "sex workers." But all that-

Laura: And you actually didn't have your byline posted sometimes when you wrote, because to protect you when you write.

Ruchi: Yes, one of - a couple of the stories which I talked about Sonagachi prostitution, that neighborhood, I didn't have a byline, might have protected me, because it was very dangerous.

Laura: Wow. Wow.

Ruchi: Yes, got followed, got threatened, got all of that done.

Laura: You were really in there. You were real-

Ruchi: I was really in there.

Laura: - real crime beat reporter.

Ruchi: Yes.

Laura: So tell us about your journey from there to here. I mean now here you are in Houston, you're very involved in the social scene in Houston and you're online publication, Lights, Camera, Action, is certainly not a crime beat - a crime beat website. How did you get there?

Ruchi: Well, I always have to say this, sixth grade the teacher asked me, "What do you want to be?" and I did raise my hand and say, "A journalist," at that point because of the glamour. But when I reached - I got the position to start with Times of India my editor told me, "You can always do lifestyle, but it's good to journalism, if you want to know more about it and interviews and go in-depth you should do city reporting, crime beat." And it excited me and I wanted to do crime beat. It was very dangerous and I was the only girl in that block doing I, but I did and I really learned a lot.

But when I came to the U.S. and I had been offered to do a column by the Statesman, or a lifestyle column, Sunday lifestyle column, full-page.

Laura: So totally different turnaround from Times of India.

Ruchi: Yes, and the Times of India and Statesman, they both send me and they told me to do that. I ran the column talking about the rich and famous Indian-Americans living in the U.S.

Laura: And you interviewed - you said you actually stayed at the Bikram of - Bikram Yoga's house once, you told me this.

Ruchi: Absolutely. It was an honor. He's the most amazing true success story. Of course he has a lot of his own, you know, controversies or whatever, but he's a really wonderful man. And I had the privilege to stay with him in his Beverly Hills Home, Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudhury as we - we call him Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Da. We call him Bikram Da, means "elderly brother," so Bikram Da. Stayed at his home, then from the Raj Kanodia, a plastic surgeon.

Laura: Wow.

Ruchi: Best friends with Tom Cruise and ______. So all those kind of stories was a great-

Laura: So you were really rolling with the big guys.

Ruchi: Yeah, I did my story. It was just a little interview or, I mean whatever. But yes, it made great relations with them. And then over the years the TV Asia - I'm a TV Asia correspondent also. TV Asia is a national channel based in New York. And after so much my - a lot of people here in Houston encouraged me, said, "Ruchi, you have so many stories going on, " because it's _____, 'cause there was those columns in India, or not so much online presence. And so then I thought - it was literally one fine day, I was being very sad, my dad was visiting me and he left for India, and I was very alone. And sometimes poetry comes when you're sad.

Laura: Yes, in our darkest moments.

Ruchi: And something, and then I was just there and something was like being away from home. It is in a way a true migrant story; I was away from home and I knew no one when I came to Houston. No one.

Laura: Which is so amazing, because now I - I mean everybody knows you, which is-

Ruchi: Thank you.

Laura: pretty cool.

Ruchi: I feel I can say that. I realize your mom knows me. So that's in Houston.

Laura: Yes, she does.

Ruchi: And so then I said, you know, I want a name for my - the site. I want to do this blog, at that time, but now it's a website.

Laura: Where you were writing about society news, or writing about-

Ruchi: Yes, I already started - so I was thinking, "I want to put" - then the idea was to put together all my stories, all my crime beat stories, all my lifestyle stories, which, you know, I wanted them all put together and people could read them. And day-to-day basis stories too in Houston that I'm covering. And I put that together and I said, "What should the name be of this site?" And I said, "Well, lights, camera, and action. Lights, Camera, Action." So that's what I-

Laura: That's what _________ name.

Ruchi: Yeah, so that's how I started saying "lights, camera, action." And the name just took off, so I said _______ be, so it's LCAHouston.com.

Laura: So you're one of those people who really strikes me as someone who just absolutely loves what they do, someone - I mean one of my favorite questions to ask myself is is this something that I would be doing if nobody was paying me? Is this something that I really, really love doing? And when I read your articles, and especially the quantity of them, you know, Lights, Camera, Action, you're doing a lot of the writing for Lights, Camera, Action. So would you say that you're somebody who just really loves what they do?

Ruchi: Yes, absolutely. And I feel no job can be well done if you absolutely don't love it. Of course we all have to pay our bills, true. But if you are lucky to be able to earn money and also do what I really like to do, but truly being passionate at the very beginning and it was always. When I did Times of India, when I did, like I always felt never felt how much I'm going to make, because money will follow if you are smart, if you are intelligent, and if you know your business. I think always it's like that.

Laura: Yeah, "Do what you love and the money will follow."

Ruchi: Exactly.

Laura: I think Maya Angelou says that, and I love it. And it really does.

Ruchi: It does. It does. And it does, and people believe in you. And I'm very, very blessed; Houston really believes in me. And I'm going to be having my event here in Neimans in May.

Laura: Oh, tell us about it. Tell us about your event.

Ruchi: It's called - it's going to be the second one. It's the International Mother's Day Soiree. And the concept is to empower women or, you know, is just talk about - put these international women in one place, whether it's a Pakistani lady, or whether it's an Indian lady, Indian mother, or a mainstream Dominic Shashi walking the ramp. So we have everyone from the who's who of the community out there walking the ramp and just highlighting international mothers of Houston, international mothers raising Americans. I'm a mom.

Laura: Yeah, you are a mom on top of all these other things. And we have such an international community in Houston.

Ruchi: We do.

Laura: You're connected to so much of that, so for you to bring all of that together, and as an empowered woman yourself, to be empowering other women is pretty great.

Ruchi: And that _____ say, because we are living here, away from our home, from our parents, and we are, you know, international women raising an American kid. For me, I love America and I really - I never felt a culture shock; I just love this country.

Laura: I love that you said that. You've said that to me in one of our previous conversations.

Ruchi: Yes.

Laura: That you feel like America has just given you so much opportunity. And I feel like I look at America differently, having had that conversation. We take those kinds of things for granted.

Ruchi: You do, and I don't. And each day I enjoy it and I would - I feel blessed to be here, and I love this country. It is the most country that embraces immigrants so well; I've not seen anywhere.

Laura: Absolutely. Given all of our sort of trauma and drama around all of that, we do - we do really embrace immigrants here. And I think that what you've done with your own opportunity has been absolutely astounding, so.

Ruchi: It's just the beginning, Laura. It's just the beginning.

Laura: It is just - I sense that about you. I sense that it is just the beginning. Well thank you so much for being on the show. Everyone, this is Ruchi Mukherjee; she is the writer, editor, publisher, creator of Houston Lights, Camera, Action. You can find her at HoustonLCA.com. And I am your host, Laura Max of the Light Files, on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. We'll see you next week. Thanks for watching.

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