Shivani Shah ’05 knows a little something about living in a city that is vastly different from one’s previous experience.
“Granville, with trees everywhere, so quiet—its pace was an unbelievable change from how I grew up in India,” she says. “I would just be happy in Granville discovering a coffee house, or taking a walk and seeing a new pretty spot. It helped me enjoy my time there.”
Today, as one of the co-founders of the website The City Story (thecitystory.com), she helps others find a deeper connection with a local world by finding places off the beaten path and telling their stories. “For example, I was able to write about “The Blue Synagogue” in Mumbai—it’s just an amazing feeling as you take in gorgeous stained-glass that just overcomes you. I was there around sunset, and I stood there with my mouth open.”
She is amazed as well at the spirited contributions of their writers, noting that one writer, a doctor by profession, is as much a wordsmith as anyone with a City Story byline. “I’ve had a chance to write a bit, but looking over the kind of thought and care that others are putting into the site, reminds me of why I do this,” she says.
Of course, it’s not just the content of The City Story that Shah finds exciting, it’s the entire professional challenge of starting a website as a business.
“A year is not long in the life of something like this. You have anxiety attacks, saying, ‘How will we do it?’ But at least she [co-founder Juhi Pande] and I don’t have those attacks at the same time—so we can calm each other down. It’s a time to learn about yourself and what you’re capable of.”
One help is that Shah is a lawyer, which aids in the business’s negotiations. Spending years as an attorney in the shipping industry, Shah one day realized that although she could continue, it simply wasn’t bringing her happiness. “I just needed something I loved,” she says. “I finally quit … and then my friend contacted me about doing this. Now this is something for me!”
Right now the website sticks to covering the stories of Shah’s town of Mumbai, and of London, where Pande lives, but their hope is to eventually expand the map. “You have to be patient but already this work is really fulfilling,” she says. “The world is filled with interesting places … You just have to open your eyes.”