We met 1.5 years ago. It was a day of getting acquainted with first-year postgraduate students. Being an English-speaking university, I expected to see many colleagues from abroad who came to continue their studies in Thessaloniki.
To my great surprise, despite the presence of close to 40 people, only one of them had left his country to come to study in our department. From the beginning my attention was caught. Not because of its different external characteristics, but rather because of the way he was observing / watching around him.
In the long run, we got to know each other better and became friends. Being a student in the heart of Brittany, I knew firsthand what it was being in a completely foreign country and trying to adapt, and that was one of the reasons I tried to approach him and help him as much as I could and as much as he allowed me to.
But the truth is that the primary reason was another. You rarely meet people with such a clear mind, but such pure being. I have been telling you that Kushal is from Jaisalmer, a city literally in the heart of the desert. I remember the first thing I asked him was what brought him here, and the, admittedly sudden, answer he gave me was destiny.
Long enough, when I was still working for summer season, he asked me if I would be interested in participating in a project he was preparing. He wanted to create an e-magazine that would focus on Thessaloniki. You see my Indian colleague was impressed by the city that hosts him and managed to see things and situations that our own eye cannot focus on.
But he recognized the liveliness of the city, its multi-culturalism, its energy as well as our hospitality, our passion, our creativity, our whims and not only did not keep them apart because of its completely different attitude of life, but he tried and assimilated them as much as he could.
It is really nice to see a man coming from the other side of the earth, with habits completely opposite ours, not only not feeling uncomfortable but tasting every moment with authenticity and simplicity.
Without, of course, changing its cultural elements but adapting it to the environment that hosts it. He also told me that the city gave him the opportunity to experience beautiful experiences such as his participation in TEDx Thessaloniki, the International Film Festival, the IAFSM and many more. He also taught computers to refugees at the Red Cross's MFC.
He wanted to reciprocate in a way all that he got from Thessaloniki and her people. That's why when I found out that he wanted to create a digital magazine to inspire the youth and at the same time to promote the city all over the world and especially outside Europe, I told him to be patient and we would start working by the time I returned to Thessaloniki. But knowing Kushal, I knew that "wait for me" would not change anything. So he started collecting a group of volunteers from three countries and founded SIG Magazine. The idea behind the magazine was to gather stories of inspiration from personalities and organizations who, through their profession or occupation, are trying to change the city's perception and inspire youth within and outside Thessaloniki, while promoting the the city itself.
When I came back to my surprise, I saw that a man with a small circle of acquaintances without speaking the local language has managed to get in touch with all the "beasts" that run the cultural, social and technological main events of the city and be ready to start collecting their stories through a series of meetings. 4 months and a few weeks before the publication of the final form of the magazine, it has come to an agreement with Travel Daily News, so the magazine will be sent directly to the 52,000 registered members as well as its own column on the platform it is visited by about 90,000 users per month and is being shown in more than 200 countries. In addition, it has also worked with the Association of Social Political Reforms, which has a network of more than 10,000 people in India.
In a nutshell, his attempt goes to the name of Thessaloniki beyond Europe, in areas that have not been heard before. Of course this was not enough, since we started a second project entitled "1,000 reasons to love Thessaloniki". In this project we collect videos up to 45 '' where 1,000 people state the reasons why they love Thessaloniki and will eventually become a full film.
With melancholy I realise that this man has begun to love this place far more than many of us. Unfortunately, we have been in the process of criticising everything (including our own society), apart from ourselves, who is also one of the cornerstones of society itself. The irony of a vicious circle. I too myself fall into this trap many times when I think of the poor urban transport services as well as the cleanliness issue, but fortunately Kush reminds me that sometimes we do not need to think but to do it.
By doing so, you help your place climb a step above, recognising its positive and negative elements, just as we have to do with ourselves.
We like to focus on the negative elements that make up 20% while we totally ignore the remaining 80% positive, such as the so rare surreal mix of people and culture that our city has been in the antiquity. As he says, Thessaloniki is not the perfect city, but it is much better than the 30 different cities that have lived and travelled.
It reminds me sometimes of Dan Brown's adage - "Sometimes to change the notion you just need to see the light" and Bruce H. Lipton's "The moment you change your mind, it's the time you rewrite the chemistry of your body." (in this case of the city)
Anyone who would like to say why he loves Thessaloniki can send his video to firstname.lastname@example.org and anyone interested in learning more about the magazine himself can visit his website at www.sigmag.org. Anyone who would like to just contact him can go to www.facebook.com/pyschokj.
Stay curious, stay inspired!!
You can read Greek version at parallaximag.gr