Change is the only constant, and Friday has always stood for change. Most of the stories we carry, no matter in which section of the magazine, reflect the transformations in our lives, our society, our world.
In keeping with this spirit we chose stories here that not only generated a massive response from our readers, both in print and online, but also highlighted changes in whatever sphere it threw light on. Looking back, we see that we have been able to offer a variety of features to our readers.
We’ve highlighted the problems faced by the children of rape – one of the articles that drew a lot of strong reactions. We’ve drawn attention to a UAE-based couple, Shabana and Faizal Kottikollon, who through their foundation helped more than 2,000 schoolgirls in Kerala, India, by reviving their run-down school. That piece also garnered an award for its writer – Friday features editor Anand Raj OK.
The year has also been one filled with achievers and motivators: while a Dubai-based student managed to tap into the talents of students across the nation, creating a bank of artistic talent that he and a group of his friends marketed to finance various special-needs schools, we also wrote about Oscar-winning Pakistani film-maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who explores the lives of disadvantaged people and major social issues.
Celebs are always popular features and several of them graced our covers over the year. Arguably Bollywood’s greatest living star Amitabh Bachchan revealed a hitherto little-known facet of himself – his romantic side. Needless to say, readers were thrilled. And a star who bounced back from innumerable personal setbacks – Salman Khan – opened up to Friday too.
From heart-warming to the awe-inspiring, here we recap some of the more popular stories that got people talking, inspired them to do something positive, or just lean back and enjoy a good read…
Pedro Reyes: the artist making war on guns
After his uncle and friend were shot and killed by gun-toting robbers, Mexican artist Pedro Reyes decided to transform the deadly weapons into musical instruments to make songs of peace. It changed the direction of his life, says Pedro. So much so, that he decided to use the disciplines he trained in – sculpture and architecture – to redress social inequity, employing video, performance and audience participation to great effect. ‘My works aim to increase individual and collective agency in social, environmental or educational situations,’ says Pedro, who’s also exhibited at the Sharjah Biennial.
From slums to soccer stardom
Football coach, motivational speaker and counsellor, Sylvester Peter studied at a school for underprivileged children in New Delhi, India, and saw the hardships they went through. He promised himself that he would help those who couldn’t afford to go to even these schools, and he started doing that at the age of 13. Today his My Angels Academy in a New Delhi slum has rehabilitated more than 1,500 slum kids, turned at least 10 of them into budding football stars and keeps them from turning into beggars, thieves and drug addicts.
‘We live in permanent fear that our temporary structure will be demolished at any time,’ says Sylvester. ‘We’ve not yet managed to collect enough funds to build a permanent one. But I’ll never stop. As I always say, my disappointments are never higher than my spirits.
‘Five girls who once used to beg in front of a temple here have been selected to study Bharatanatyam on merit in Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, one of the prime classical dance institutes of Delhi,’ says Sylvester. ‘These girls play football too and are a very important part of our football team. Meanwhile, our boys’ football team represented India in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) tournament in Delhi.’
Sylvester received an award and was honoured in a UN forum, Putting Humanity Before Mankind. ‘Now we are going to start a computer centre for Angels with 10 second-hand computers,’ he says proudly.
Keenan D’Abreo was 17 and had already organised five art exhibitions raising Dh73,000 for charity when we interviewed him. Now he’s 18 and his charity venture Artex (short for art exhibition) has raised more than Dh100,000 so far. ‘It’s so fulfilling to raise funds for charity that benefits less-privileged people,’ he says.
‘I want to keep doing such deeds for as long as I can.’
Keenan and his eight friends, all aged 18, collect paintings from students across the UAE and organise exhibitions without assistance from any organisation or grown-up.
The money they collect goes towards augmenting the infrastructure of various special-needs school in the country. It also gives exposure to budding artists, and many wrote in to express their appreciation.
Raising the children of rape
They are known as ‘the unwanted’ – babies born after their mothers have been sexually attacked – but as the crime rate in poorer states of India spirals out of control, more and more teenage mothers are having to choose between looking after their children or aiming to move ahead in life.
The hard-hitting story not only jolted our readers, it also raised a lot of awareness about the plight of these young mothers.
Amitabh Bachchan: There’s nothing I’d like to have changed in my life
At 73, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan still exudes the same magnetic charm he did decades ago. When we spoke to him as he prepared for his latest venture on the small screen, the Big B opened up on many topics he’s usually reticent about, and even told us why he is envious of younger actors. Fans as well as regular readers enjoyed it as much as we did.
John Travolta: ‘I want to be Bond... James Bond’
A Friday exclusive, it thrilled our reader fans who found that the Hollywood megastar John Travolta, at 61, still craved a role as the iconic British spy.
Travolta also spoke about his love for Dubai and why he wanted to return to television.
A new chapter in education
A foundation set up by a UAE-based Indian couple has given more than 2,000 girls who were attending a run-down institution in Kerala a reason not to skip school.
This story was also commended by the jury of the Aster Media Awards instituted by the DM Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Aster DM Healthcare, for being ‘very good on-ground reporting and an inspiration for others on how Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) could potentially improve crucial areas such as education in India’, and won Friday’s features editor Anand Raj OK the international category award.
The Faizal and Shabana Foundation was established in 2007 in India by Sharjah-based industrialist Faizal E Kottikollon and his wife Shabana Faizal. It embodies the spirit of CSR and the upliftment of the underprivileged in society. When it took over the GVHS School in Nadakkavu in 2013, it was a dilapidated institution dying on its legs. Within 95 days the school was transformed into a modern, well-equipped school up to international standards, where more than 100 retrained staff educates 2,400 girls on a sprawling 3.4-acre campus.
Today, the GVHSS Nadakkavu is rated among the top four of the 1.3 million government schools in India, and the pass percentage of the students is 100 per cent.
Acid attack survivor: ‘I feared my baby would be scared by my face’
Over 10 years the acid attack, Laxmi was overjoyed to learn she was pregnant. But she was afraid her child would be terrified by her appearance. We met her to find out how she and her husband coped with her fears. The heart-warming story moved many a reader to tears.
Salman Khan: big boss
Friday decided to take a close look at the Bollywood phenomenon Salman Khan as he turned 50 to find out what makes him tick. In the process of the interview we ended up finding out how he fought his demons and what was in store for his fans this year.
Needless to say, his fans devoured it all!
Oscar-winning Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has been regularly dishing out films that explore the lives of disadvantaged people and major social issues. When we spoke to her, her film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness had been in contention for the best documentary (short).
It went on to win Sharmeen her second Oscar.
The world’s youngest principal
Babar Ali started a ‘school’ when he was just nine years old, with eight students. Today, at 23, the award-winning TED speaker, whose fans include superstar Aamir Khan, has started constructing a permanent building where his school will be housed and is educating more than 300 underprivileged students in his backyard.
‘Friday’s story created a lot of interest in our school, especially from the Middle East,’ says Babar. ‘Some kind people even called me up to inquire what I required for the school!’
It’s school time for grannies!
Every afternoon, a group of elderly women – all over 60 years, and some nearing 90 – head to a new school in their village near Mumbai to learn the alphabet and fulfil their lifelong dream of attaining literacy. The story caught the imagination of our readers worldwide, with many writing in to express their admiration for the spirit of the women.