Sunday, December 30, 2012


My mind had been still, like a clear night sky.
Some stars sprinkled even.
So I slept in peace, unsuspecting.
But I awoke, in the 'middle of the night' mahurat
The way they have in stories of myth.
That time of ghosts and ominous things.
It must have been like a loudclap of thunder
or blinding lightening, just behind my lids
Amplified millionfold in the land of Hypnos
Like an Indra lying in wait,
sharpening his quiverful of bolts
on a trumpeting Airavat.
No, like a hundred angry Indras
on a hundred angry Airavats
Lightning, trumpeting, lightning, trumpeting
My eardrums shattered, my world ripped,
I lay there, perfect darkness about me.
Then, out of the skies of my past
the first drops came.
A big thought of you,
and another, and another
until my face was drenched, with salty rain.
Before I knew, what pillar to hold
Drops became walls of water.
There was no stopping the deluge that night.
There was no saving my dams that night.
I would have to sink or swim,
Through this flash flood of emotion.
My heart shook, my limbs too,
I perhaps genuflected in bed too.
But memories were in no mood for mercy,
So I waited and let wash upon me
wave upon wave of our time together.
Your smiles flickered across the skies,
teeth flashing amidst rolling clouds.
Past happinesses projected now
in tear-jerking shades of grey.
While the storm of 'us' danced the tandav dance
breaking my walls like dominos.
In the churning oceans of thought
I tossed about and counted hours
till the sun of my present rose again.
I started all over again,
with the stricken remains of my will to forget.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Impressions

Long before the (apparently) brilliant film was made, long before everyone was talking about Yann Martel like he was their friend from next door, my then boyfriend had recommended I read 'Life of Pi'. Of course, I didn't. But when the Universe brought me a recommendation this second time around, I decided to. And WHAT.A.BOOK! Yann Martel owns you with his dazzling writing through the 319 odd pages of the book with effortless, photographic writing, making the reading of this book no less of an experience than watching a 3D film on a 70mm screen.

'Life of Pi' is a wonderful, whimsical story about Piscine Molitor Patel - 'known to all as Pi Patel' - and his journey across the Pacific on a lifeboat with a tiger! The 16-year-old protagonist thinks he is the sole survivor of a sunken ship, until he finds himself aboard with four animals from his father's zoo - a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and Richard Parker, the Royal Bengal Tiger. The other three animals get eaten and Pi is left alone on the lifeboat with the tiger. The story proceeds to tell us how he survives the endless Pacific, keeping the tiger and his sanity alive for more than 200 days. Teetering of the edge of life and death, Pi learns the many secrets of animal life, in a bid to survive among them.

Parable-like, 'The Pacific' is the second and the largest section of the book that talk about Pi's life at sea. It is here that the meat (and a lot of astounding special effects in case of the movie) of the story lies. However, my personal favourite is the first part of the book, which is called 'Toronto and Pondicherry'. This part is about the teenager's life before the wreckage, and his finding a love for God in all religions. Martel slips in simple, insightful messages about harmony in religions, about finding divine comfort in small places and things like prayer rugs or church bells or incense sticks. This part also talks about the nature of animals, within and outside of zoos, and the author's thorough research throws delightful little tidbits of information your way, without ever preaching.

The third and last part of the story 'Mexico' is when Pi washes aboard the Mexican town of Tomatlan, parts ways with Richard Parker and returns to human habitation. The most striking part of this section is Pi's retelling of his story to two Japanese officers, who refuse to believe that Pi lived and survived with wild animals on board. Martel, through Pi, substitutes the animals with human characters and recounts his tale, leaving the reader wondering if the story was a parable all along.

'Life of Pi' is a fantastic book, and one page after another, you realise why the work won the Booker, so much acclamation, and a place in cinematic history. Readers of all kinds and ages will find this book appealing for its simplicity, brilliance and unforgettable story. It is definitely going into my 'ask-son-to-read' list of books.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Aroma Therapy made easy by Nirmal Minawala

Aroma Treasures functions tirelessly in its bid to transform Aromatherapy into a household name in India. To educate people and spread awareness, proprietor Nirmal Minawala has written a book titled ‘Aromatherapy Made Easy’. This book has received several accolades and has been accepted very well in the industry. Many beauty institutes use it as a textbook.

At 52 pages, Aroma Therapy Made Easy is a slim little edition, but don’t be fooled by its size. The book is a fairly comprehensive one, and covers the width of the alternative medicine of aromatherapy.  The first two chapters – An introduction to Aromatherapy, and Holistic Approach, introduce in easy language the principles upon which Aromatherapy is based. It tells us how and where this form of medicine can be used. Additionally, it stresses on the other ways in which general health can be maintained.

The third chapter throws light on the methods of extraction for essential oils while the fourth discusses in detail the properties of essential oils. The fourth chapter is the longest, with the author describing the properties of more than 80 kinds of oils. The descriptions include attributes, indications, and sometimes, contraindications.

Chapter five and six of the book focus on the limited number of carrier and macerated or infused oils, and Minawala very helpfully mentions exactly what uses and dilutions for each of these oils is. Blending techniques are also discussed briefly, with an important warning about patch tests. Then come the methods of use, that include terse descriptions of vapourization, steam inhalation, usage on tissue, bath, massage, hair treatment, skin treatment and additional uses.

The eighth chapter on Formulas is the one that therapists will find most useful, as it has formulations for a number of common ailments like colds & coughs, muscular pains, stress, depression, and hair fall among others. The book ends with a handy therapeutic index and finally, a note on Safety and Precautions.
A thoroughly recommended book for anyone running a spa or offering spa services within their salon setup.

This article appeared in the November 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - the salon & spa journal and the November-December issue of Spa Mantra 2012. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto: Impressions

Em and the Big Hoom is a disturbing book. Mildly so, but disturbing all the same, especially for an erstwhile student of Clinical Psychology. It was like opening that disconcerting Pandora's box all over again. A box I had chosen to put a lid on years ago because I cannot deal with the dark beyond the light, the yin beside the yang. Two years of formal MA education, hoards of case studies and a brush with schizophrenia within the family (when my late aunt's hallucinations were much fodder for family gossip) weren't enough for me to learn a stoic acceptance of the blackness we all carry within.

With Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto (yes, yes, another Indian English author. I can't seem to be able to dodge them) artfully opened the can of worms and let them writhe and wriggle all over my body and my mind. However, finishing E&TBH was a mini victory because is my first 'free will' book after a long time of reading for reviewing.  Well, it wasn't entirely a 'free will' read because my husband, Viren, has been badgering me to read it ever since he got past the first chapter of the book. E&TBH is one of those rarer works that has appealed to us, who, otherwise have vastly disparate tastes in books. The last one, I think, was The Language of Flowers.

E&TBH is, as Kiran Desai succinctly sums it up, a 'rare and brilliant book'. It is the story of a middle class Catholic family of four living in the cramped confines of a 1BHK in Mahim, Mumbai, trying to find a semblance of sanity in this insane city. The narrator's mother Em, or Imelda is a patient of manic-depression and the rocker of the boat of their lives, while the Big Hoom, the teenaged narrator's father, their anchor. Life is a constant game of toss for the father, the 17-year-old narrator and his older sister, Susan, who never know if they will wake up to an Em, who will be a foul-mouthed, beedi-smoking, chai slurping, maniacal creature one day, or a pitiable person in the throes of such viscous depression that she wants to kill herself.

From what I understand from some other reviews of the book, E&TBH is a 'memoir, cleverly disguised as fiction'. That is easy to deduce really, because no one, who hasn't been a caregiver for the mentally ill, can write the way Pinto does. Behind those darkly humorous lines, is a deep understanding of the way the mentally ill are. There's a sensitive mix of empathy, fatigue that comes from caring for the ill and frustrations from fighting the taboos that surround mental illness. The characters are beautifully detailed - Em with her normal, manic and depressed shades, the Big Hoom with his stolid, manly manners, Mae, the grandmother, with limited emotions and words, Susan, with her composure and the narrator, himself, with his sadness, confusion and constant pendulum-ing between love and hatred for his mother.

Pinto's style is effortless and his language, casual without being flippant. He is funny-sad, like only 'mad'ness can be, and just as you begin to enjoy some laughs, he punches your gut with a poignant point. And there's plenty of those. His use of typical Anglo-Indian slang lends authenticity to the story, and his plot zigzags from the past to the present and back to the past again. The past speaks of Em and the Big Hoom's courtship, and their present, about their race against Em's condition. The book ends rather anti-climatically, as real life most often does. The lack of drama is almost poetic, making for an apt end to Pinto's remarkable book, which is a story of madness that is life, and life that is madness.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shades of Love: Impressions

The last time I read an anthology was during my BA days, when hours would be spent trying to thrash a Keating or a Chekov into submitting all interpretations of their work in the Lit. class. I think it was the nostalgia that prompted me to accept a review copy of 'Shades of Love', despite my professed fatigue of reading Indian English writing. Also, the endless intrigue of love pushed me further. Thankfully, it wasn't a bad pick.

Edited by Ankit Mittal (who needs to find a better proofreader, considering the number of errors I spotted), 'Shades of Love' is a collection of short love stories by Indian authors, known and unknown. Some names I was familiar with; Sachin Garg, Naman Kapur, Aastha Atray Banan and Rohit Gore among them. The other new names, were as good, if not better, than the published crop. Mittal needs to be credited for making mostly poignant choices, reflecting indeed the many shades of love in this anthology. However, some stories are entirely forgettable.

I shall recall, here, the most unforgettable ones.

'A Pop Tart's Psychotic Love Story' by Aastha Atray Banan with its 'LOOK AT ME!' title, also has the meat to go with it. We have the story of a girl, unable to forget the lover who has ditched her, pushed to the threshold of madness. She will do what it takes to have him back, even if it means to kill him or his present girlfriend. When she finally walks up to the ex's house, all guns blazing, she is met with a rather unexpected turn of events...

'A Hero Greater Than Shahrukh Khan' by Rohit Gore has a cheesy title (Gore has a penchant for those), but is deserving of mention because of its tenderness. Caught in Mumbai's infamous deluge, an underdog becomes his family's hero; winning love at the cost of his life.

'Stolen' by Naman Kapur is a sharp little story about love between two equals - in crime and in bed. A pickpocket zooms into a target, sparks fly, and the one out to steal is stolen from. Fun.

Apart from these, 'The Remedy' by Sachin Garg, and 'She Called It, Kikugasane' by Tushar Rai are also fair reads.

However, Durjoy Datta's 'The English Teacher' is the most remarkable and shocking story of the whole lot, about an obsessive love, and that's all I am going to say about it for fear of ruining it for a reader. If you need a reason to buy this book, buy it for Datta's story. Yes, ignore the horrible paper quality of the book, ignore the lame stories, even ignore the choice of font on the book cover. Read Datta's story and ask Grapevine India to rope him in to write a novel that would stick to a reader's mind forever.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Boy; mine

That's Jishnu watching TV, as always. :) I made it in about an hour on my Adesso graphic tablet. I used  the reference picture seen below.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My arms, they have morphed...

(Image courtesy: Painting by Jak Savage)

My arms, they have morphed
Limbs, as if another's 
for, even when I play lover,
these arms remain a mother's 
Distant memories of passion remain,
Light scars on my skin
My hands have forgotten
to seek and to sin
Now they move nimbly 
in hushed tenderness
Careful to not hurt
They soothe, they caress
Hungry no more
My arms have learnt to give
to lift minor mountains
and for another, live
Last night, when you broke
My lips refused to kiss
But my heart cradled yours
till you were lulled to sleep
In my mind's eye, 
My arms held you tight
and sang you lullabies 
about hope and fairy lights
My arms, they said to you,
Be afraid not of this fall,
I will love you and hold you,
I will be your all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black is beautiful

Wonder.Black by Matrix rides the current fashion wave that is all about this sexy, never-go-wrong colour. StyleSpeak submits to the reign of darkness

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

Late in July when Lady Gaga launched her perfume, Fame, it justifiably created a lot of buzz. And that wasn’t just because it was a Lady Gaga posing in the nude for her fragrance. The perfume is the first of its kind – a black-coloured fluid that turns transparent on contact with air! The reign of black has moved on from the world of fashion to the world of beauty, with smokey eyes and dark lips ruling runways the world over.

Lustrous black hair is equally in vogue with a number of Hollywood celebrities preferring the look over the blond locks of the yesteryears. We take a look at some of the hottest celebs who are known for their haute dark manes, and who’ve created something of a ‘Wonder Black’ fashion phenomenon.

Katy Perry: Recently in the news for her split from hubby Russell Brand, this pop icon often changes the colour of her hair and is known for her quirky, cute sense of style. However, it is her dark, shiny hair that stands her apart. Perry’s music is as fresh as her often-changing looks and this lethal combination has her fans from across the world swooning.

Kim Kardashian: The queen of America’s page 3, Kim Kardashian is one of the most snapped celebrities in the world. While she has often been in the news for all the wrong reasons, including her first sex tape to her recent divorce after a short 72-day marriage, she is also much admired for her perfect make-up and coiffed hair.  Her long, dark locks have made quite a fashion statement in the media.

Megan Fox: ‘Transformers’ star Megan Fox is considered one of the sexiest women in the world. However, after her marriage to Brian Austin Greene, Fox has been pretty much off the media radar. But her luscious lips and terrific brunette tresses are hard to forget.

Salma Hayek: This Mexican beauty is certainly one of the sexiest actresses of this generation, with her smoldering eyes and dark-as-night hair. Her exotic features have been the object of attention for millions of fans on the globe as have been her stunning onscreen performances.

Selena Gomez: She is the object of envy for millions of Justin Bieber fans, as she has been dating the super pop star for a while. A successful artiste in her own right, the sweet Selena Gomez has her own share of fans, who dote equally over her dimples, her music and her thick, dark locks.

Vanessa Hudgens: Another young heartthrob, Vanessa Hudgens rose to fame while playing the female lead, Gabriella Montez, in the crazy-popular ‘High School Musical’. She has since charted a successful career as a singer and an actress and is known among other things her beautiful, long black hair.

Penelope Cruz: Another gorgeous actress from the exotic crop is the sensational Penelope Cruz. The Spanish beauty, with her gorgeous smile and sensational dark eyes and hair, has several movies to her credit and has even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We certainly think she has earned it.

Catherine Zeta Jones: Wife to the much-older Michael Douglas, mother to xyz, Academy Award winner and superstar, Catherine Zeta Jones wears all her hats with aplomb. The Welsh actress is immensely attractive what with her beautiful body, striking personality and who can forget those raven tresses?

This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - The Salon & Spa Journal.

The Yogic Stance

Kaivalyadhama in Lonavla unlocks the door to health and wellbeing with the key of Yoga

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

The famous tourist hill station of Lonalva, built by the British may be better known for its breathtaking waterfalls and crunchy chikkis, but followers of the soulful path have been streaming into this beautiful place for other, less frivolous reasons. The Yoga ashram ‘Kaivalyadhama’ has been drawing young and old alike for many years now, offering the unprecedented benefits that come with practicing Yoga. Established in 1924 by Swami Kuvalayananda, Kaivalyadhama was conceptualized as an institution that would offer and propagate health and well-being through Yoga, which would be supported by scientific evidence.

The place: Finding Kaivalyadhama in Lonavla is easy, its formidable reputation built in over 80 years draws people from all over the country, especially Mumbai and Pune. However, it’s not just people from India who seek the goodness that Kaivalyadhama offers; the ashram receives a lot of international guests too.

Kaivalyadhama is built over approximately 20 acres of green land, flanked by the Sahyadri hills, but the Samiti  or Trust (Shriman Madhav Yoga Mandir Samiti, commonly known as the Kaivalyadhama Samiti) owns around 150 acres of property. It was originally given to the founder, Swami Kuvalayananda, by Maharaja Sarjerao Gaikwad. It was on this land that Swamiji established the institute in 1924. His mission was to perpetuate Yogic teachings in the classical tradition, albeit with a scientific base. From the 1920s to this day, Kaivalyadhama continues to live this vision.

The organisation: Kaivalyadhama, today, is a multi-tiered organization that works on many levels, under the chairmanship and spiritual tutelage of Swami Maheshananda.

From a single building entity that housed a Scientific Research Department, it has grown to a place that comprises the Kaivalya Vidya Niketan School, the Gordhandas Seksaria College of Yoga & Cultural Synthesis, the Philosophico-Literary Research Department, the Yoga Mimamsa Publication Department, and the S.A.D.T. Gupta Yogic Hospital and Health Care Centre.

While each centre makes its own valuable contribution, it is the hospital and health care centre where people accrue the most benefits of the Yogic way.

The Kaivalyadhama experience: I sought to find out what it was about this unassuming little ashram that has people coming to it from all over the world, over and over again. I reached Kaivalyadhama late in the evening, and was led to my room by the security guard. Life at the dham is much organised, and the administration of the place closes sharp at 5 pm. Most visitors choose weekly packages, which are from Sunday.

My room is within a simple-looking villa – one of the many where guests are put up. Apart from an AC and a TV, there are no other frills – no dressing table in the room and no toiletries in the bathroom. I realise that the setting is spartan by design, priming a participant for the simple living that Yoga and Ayurveda promote. For those who are not equipped with these, a small store within the precincts sells odds and ends like soaps, shampoos, biscuits, etc.

After quickly freshening up, I head for an early dinner at the large common dining hall at the health centre. This is where all guests eat three times a day, and exchange notes and pleasantries. The fare is simple, vegetarian cuisine prepared in accordance with Ayurvedic principles and the choices are limited. Those following anti-obesity or similar programs have different, customised diets.

Post dinner, everybody heads to the library, where the resident medical officer and Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Sharad Bhalekar is to give a small lecture. This hour-long informal talk after dinner is a standard practice, where not only are people illuminated about certain theoretical aspects of the program, but also encouraged to ask questions and share feedback. Tonight’s topic is ‘Stress, its effects on health and yoga practices to help control it.’ There are no mikes, no PowerPoint slides, no printed material. The speaker simply discusses the core concepts and solutions in a mix of Hindi, English and Marathi keeping in mind his 30-strong mixed audience.

When I say mixed audience, I do not just mean people speaking different languages. The group is diverse in terms of nationality, gender and age. Surprisingly enough, a lot of families come to Kaivalyadhama, and it’s quite common to see all three generations of a family attending, small kids included. Every week, a batch of about 30 to 40 people enrolls for various programs, and they are divided approximately into groups of 10, depending on their choice of program. Program-specific recommendations for asanas, diet and other aspects are made at the S.A.D.T. Gupta Yogic Hospital and Health Care Centre.

The S.A.D.T. Gupta Yogic Hospital and Health Care Centre: This is the only hospital in India, and perhaps the world, to offer treatments based entirely on principles of Yoga and Ayurveda. It was started in 1962 with the help of a patron who found tremendous benefit in Kaivalyadham’s treatments, and it is after him that the hospital is named. It is presently overseen by the resident doctor, Dr. Sharad Bhalekar, consulting doctor, Dr. Prakash Agrawal, and secretary, O.P. Tiwari, along with several support staff.

On arrival, guests undergo a thorough medical check up at the hospital, following which reports and recommendations are made. There are three basic packages that most people choose from - Yoga and Relaxation, Yoga and Naturopathy and Yoga and Panchakarma. Generally speaking, the first package is chosen by visitors with few or no health problems; while the second and third, or a mix of both are preferred by people who come for therapeutic reasons. Treatments proffered at this Yogic hospital include a combination of techniques like Yoga, Pranayama, regulated diet, Ayurvedic medicine and therapies. In case of emergencies, an Allopathic doctor may be consulted.

The Naturopathy Centre: Following its inception in 1991, the Naturopathy centre has seen a great rise in popularity. Spread over 6000 sq. ft., with separate gents’ and ladies’ sections and several treatment rooms, the large centre is managed by two naturopaths, Kusum Sharma and Sandeep Dixit. Its staff strength of eight includes female and male therapists and helpers.

Guests come here for three primary reasons: relaxation, therapy and detoxification. Although the therapies are prescribed, casual visitors may choose what they like. The most popular among those are mud therapy, kansavati (oil massage of the soles and palms with a bell metal bowl), hydrotherapy, and localised massages. These therapies have been found to be greatly beneficial for minor ailments like headaches, hypertension, sleeplessness, obesity, and joint aches.

Interestingly, the centre doesn’t offer full body massages because, “people get addicted to massages, and we don’t want to go down that road. Our aim is simply to alleviate people’s health problems and with the right combination of Naturopathy techniques, we do just that,” says Dixit. He adds that the age group of their clientele is between 40 and 70 and that the female to male ratio is about 60:40. I am surprised by that last bit of information because in most spas in India, the ratio is reverse. However, this is not a spa, and perceptions make a great difference. I see the relaxed attitude of other women clients myself, when I go in for a session of head massage, kansavati and mud pack.

The Ayurveda Centre: As compared to the Naturopathy centre, the Ayurveda centre is fairly new and small. It was set up as a separate entity from the hospital as recently as 2007. With six small treatment rooms, and six therapists (three male, three female), the Centre is overseen by resident Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Gururaj Doddoli and visiting senior doctor, Dr. Jagdish Bhutada. Dr. Bhutada is based in Pune and prepares the medicated oils that are used in the treatments at the centre himself.

The centre mainly offers Panchakarma, an Ayurvedic method of detoxification that includes emetics, enemas, inducing diarrhoea, nasal administration and blood letting. While its effectivity is tried and tested, it is perhaps not the choice of therapy for the faint-hearted. It probably also explains why there are fewer takers for Panchakarma as compared to the non-intrusive Naturopathy treatments. However, the Ayurveda centre also offers a la carte choices to those who seek only relaxation and not detoxification. The most popular among those standalone therapies are the Potli massage, Abhyangam and Shirodhara.

With the unavailability of trained therapists locally, Kaivalyadhama sources locals with little or no formal training, and trains them at the centre (likewise for the Naturopathy centre) for about three months by the residing Ayurvedic doctors.

Matters of the spirit: For those seeking wellbeing beyond their bodies, Kaivalyadhama also has provisions for spiritual guidance in the form of Swami Maheshananda ji. Swami Maheshananda is the second generation disciple of the founder, Swami Kuvalayananda. He is not only the chairman of Kaivalyadhama, but also the spiritual guide of the organisation. Swamiji lives in a kutir (hut) in a secluded part of Kaivalyadhama, although he is accessible to anyone who wishes to see him. He conducts a pooja and havan (sacrificial fire) every morning and evening, and visitors are welcome to partake in the proceedings.

I go to meet him, and we talk of matters material and spiritual.In his gentle manner, he explains to me the ideology that the institution is based on. He emphasises the need for internal change before Yoga or anything else can take effect. He uses the analogy of plant and water for the body and Yoga. “Yoga,” he says, “is like water for a plant. You needn’t and shouldn’t pour in vast quantities at one time. A little every day is what is required. If the water doesn’t reach the plant, it is not the fault of the water. It is the gardener’s fault. Perhaps, he hasn’t removed an obstacle, a stone in its path,” he illuminates.

I nod at the simple yet profound wisdom of his statements, and soon take leave. Kaivalyadham’s effectivity through simplicity, discipline and Yoga affects me in the same profound way. And I am sure it affects people similarly, who come back to it again and again. It is not for nothing that one of the oldest Yoga institutions in the world continues to thrive way into the 21st century.    

 This article appeared in the May-June 2012 issue of Spa Mantra

The web of wellness

Spa Mantra picks some websites that will help you offer a better spa experience

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

1. The Spa Gals
Started by a bunch of travel writers cum spa enthusiasts, The Spa Gals is a fun site. Beth Blair, Jennifer Miner and Kara Williams comprise the trio who visit spas regularly for treatments and blog about their experiences. They also review spas, compile spa news, product reviews, trends and tips for spa travel. There are separate tabs for each, and the information is crisp and classified. There is even a section for spa deals, which spa lovers will like. Since the bloggers are based in the US, the spas reviewed are mostly American and the bloggers review spas by invitation too. The blog design is vibrant without being too casual, and easy to navigate. It has its own social network pages and thus is easy to follow.  Check it out for the reviews.

2. Massage Therapy Center
Massage Therapy Center is a wonderful resource for masseurs, as it sheds light on a great many kinds of therapy and their respective benefits. The blog belongs to a massage training organization by the same name in California, and they write mostly about techniques, tips and tricks of massaging. The posts are regularly made and are relevant to massage professionals and general readers. They also write about wellness and matters of the soul, since the physical and spiritual realms are connected. The Wordpress blog is simple in design and writing style. The array of sub topics is vast, with blog posts on Deep Tissue Massage, Craniosacral therapy, meditation, pain and injury management, breathwork, Seifukujitsu, posture, etc. It is also easy to subscribe to, with social network and follow buttons in place.

3. My Skin Concierge
For a blog (and a Twitter account) as popular as My Skin Concierge, there’s very little information of its founder. Ava Roxanne, who runs this busy blog, describes herself as a ‘skincare, spa & travel go-to gal’ and believes that taking care of the skin and spa-ing are not luxuries but essentials! The blog looks rather commercial with a bunch of advertisements, promotions, and badges sprinkled all over the place, but its clever design prevents it from looking cluttered. A pretty pink theme and plenty of pictures marks it as a woman’s domain. The blog has posts on all sorts of things, but chiefly focuses on spas and beauty products. Added perks are links to deals and free stuff like spa music and recipes. This is a great site for an all-round view of the wellness industry.

4. Natural Therapy Blog
Because spas aim at promoting all-round wellbeing for their clients, recommending safe and natural remedies and diets are often a part of their plan. This website is an excellent place to know about natural remedies and techniques that are simple yet effective and that bring about holistic wellness. The blog is very simply laid, with one detailed blog post after another and no unnecessary frills. The information is clear and precise and of high relevance to those working the wellness sphere. The range of topics is vast as one can surmise from some blog post titles: ‘Herbal users ignoring scientific guidelines’, ‘Does mistletoe really fight cancer?’, ‘Beet Juice: Simple but effective tool against hypertension!’, ‘French clay may help cure Buruli ulcer’, ‘Fat loss diet has rules you should stick to’, and ‘Aroma therapy: Relieve your digestive disorders with Peppermint oil’ are some examples.

This article appeared in the May-June 2012 issue of Spa Mantra

SJP by design

Savio John Pareira’s salon is deemed one of the trendiest salons in Mumbai. StyleSpeak finds out what makes it so special

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

Savio John Pareira is a familiar name to anyone worth his salt in the hairdressing industry. But it is not just his hairdressing skills that have earned him loyal clientele. His effusive charm and his beautiful salon are also responsible for Savio John Pareira’s fame in equal parts. When I entered this industry, his was a name that I overheard frequently in conversations. It was only recently that I had an opportunity to meet him and discover why Savio John Pareira and his salon by the same name has become what it is today.

First impressions
That the Savio John Pereira (SJP) Salon is located near Carter Road is Bandra is its first winning point. After all, who can resist a little walk through one of the hippest places in Mumbai? So I went around asking for this famous salon, enjoying the locality with old style bungalows and sea breeze wafting off the promenade. When someone pointed it out to me, I asked him twice, because all I saw was a crumbling old 2-storey house. But my guide insisted that it was the place I was looking for, and sure enough, the artsy logo combining the letters S, J, P was right up there. For a moment I wondered how one of Mumbai’s most talked-about salons could be holed up in such a tiny place, but then first impressions aren’t always right.

The interiors
I took a flight of high stairs, and crossing a small waiting area, entered the salon. And lo! The reasons for the popularity of this uptown salon were revealed to me. The salon is on the first floor of the century-old colonial building, and looks deceptively big for its 980 sq. ft. area. It looks huge mostly because of the high ceilings, but also because the place has been cleverly designed. The interiors are a visible amalgamation of various styles. While the feel of the place is old-school, the furnishings are contemporary. It is a mix-and-match between a warm wooden palette and white-grey modern one. However, there is perfect harmony in this married concepts look. Savio tells me how he has borrowed ideas from several places across the globe – but mostly Europe.

“I travelled extensively during 2008-2009,” Savio told me. “I went to Europe, South America, England, and other countries. In the short stints that I worked in those places, or simply visited them, I learnt a lot about their architecture. You will see a lot of European influences in my salon,” he added, as I nodded in agreement.

The furnishing
 The salon has been jointly designed by Savio and architect/interior designer Payal Makwana. As stated before, the salon lends a very warm ambiance, primarily because of the wooden-style flooring (which are really special tiles), beige upholstered sofas, and chandeliers casting a soft yellow light. Savio is rather proud of his chandeliers and tells me they’ve been bought from a humongous 10,000 sq. ft. shop called Chimera, where, Savio insists, one can find all sorts of lights.

I quiz Savio about the furniture, and he tells me that he got all of it custom-made, so that the salon wouldn’t clutter up, and retain its, what he calls, ‘openness’. The red and gold cushions on the sofas add an interesting touch. The back washes, of course, are ready made and are three in number. There are seven haircutting stations placed against tall mirrors, and one mani-pedi station. There are more mobile foot soak tubs for when the need arises. There is one treatment room where body treatments and/or facials are done. My favourite part of that room was the iconic black-and-white poster of Audrey Hepburn from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

Several other pictures of music icons also find place on one of the salon walls, along with small bookshelves, and eclectic English music constantly plays in the salon to match that mood. What make the place even cooler are the booze bottles that have been used as flower vases!

The challenges
I am impressed, and ask him what challenges he faced while creating such a lovely place. “Redoing the plumbing was our biggest challenge,” he gravely says. All the building’s old pipes had to be pulled out and done over again. No compromise could have been made, considering plumbing is one of the most important aspects of a salon’s design. Another challenge was the cost factor. Aside from the fact that the rent of the place is huge in expensive Bandra, doing it up cost him about 80 lakh back in 2009 when the Savio John Pereira salon was started. Even today, the fear of redevelopment looms large, but SJP is safe for the moment, because the building is heritage property. It is within this beautiful place that Savio John Pereira and his 27-member team makes Mumbaikars beautiful, and we sure hope it stays that way.

This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - The Salon & Spa Journal.

Dream salons

Check out the world’s trendiest, classiest and most opulent salons

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

Making people beautiful is not limited to cutting and styling hair or applying makeup. It is about offering an experience. Therefore, the business of beauty is best conducted in a beautiful space. Any experienced stylist or esthetician will know and understand the importance of gorgeous spaces. It is therefore no wonder that the world’s best stylists have the world’s prettiest salons. We bring to you the most amazing salon spaces from around the world.

1. Color – a salon by Michael Boychuck, Las Vegas, USA
Perhaps one of the most opulent salons of the world is Color by Michael Boychuck. The stylist was recently named the Las Vegas Colorist of the Decade by leading hair care company Schwarzkopf Professional. And his salon inside Caesar’s Palace also walked away with the coveted “most beautiful salon in the country” by EsteticaDesign’s highly respected Whitebook.

“It’s truly an honor to have Color recognized by such an esteemed publication,” said Boychuck in a statement sent out to the press on Friday. “Our world-renowned designer Faye Resnick, my incredible staff and the remarkable team at Caesars Palace have made Color one of the finest salons in the country.”

2. Cristiano Cora Studio, New York, USA
The Cristiano Cora Studio is a hairdressing salon in New York, is one of those salons riding the architectural Renaissance wave. It was designed by architect Avi Oster, who created a new essence of salon environment that meant to capture the balance between modern architecture and the needs of the hair dressing industry.
On the second floor of a sleek sexy building, the modernist design of the studio with its clean lines and sensuous curves is the perfect setting for a designer whose signature look is both functional and beautiful. The furniture that has been designed by Ross Lovegrove, lends the studio a futuristic yet luxurious look.
Pics: Mikiko Kikuyama

3. Cabello Salon, Belgrade, Serbia
The Cabello Salon in Belgrade, Serbia, is a predominantly black space with a rather interesting design element. In order to overcome the uneven ceiling of the original property, the designers, Studio: a2arhitektura, hung “hair”, or black plastic threads!
In addition to black tones, the interior has furniture made of natural wood-ash brushed, which emphasises natural materials. Despite the predominant black, there is a particular shade of purple light, which marks the visual space reminding one that it is a women’s hairdressing salon. Although in its interior measurements, the salon is small, these small touches add a new visual identity to the space.
Photos: Vladimir Andjelkovic.

4. Boa Hairdressers Salon, Zurich, Switzerland
Another ‘hairy’ salon is the Boa Hairdressers Salon in Zurich, Switzerland. Designed by Zurich-based Claudia Meier the interior features a series of white translucent fibres hanging from the ceiling, with light filtering through them over the workstations. Meier has used varying lengths of the fibre to give the impression of cut hair. A slight movement circulates in the fibres created of the hairdryers blowing air through the space.

In another point of resemblance to Cabello, this salon uses natural materials for furniture. However, the natural materials in this case are tree stumps meant for use as side tables and stools. With such effects Meier was certainly able to execute her brief of creating a “new world”.

5. Haarwerk, Cologne, Germany
Less salon and more set from a futuristic film, the Haarwerk hairdressers shop in Cologne is a fine specimen of contemporary design. Designers Hackenbroich Architecten designed this salon, which is situated in an old factory building. The most amazing aspect of the otherwise stark interiors is the light installation. There are 75 light bulbs extended on black flexes from a central point. A cloud of lights expands through the store. With the visible wires they form a spatial texture like a distorted chandelier. The lights can be controlled and dimmed in five circles to allow a smooth transition of various illuminated conditions.
The architects used wallpaper to make the functional elements of the shop appear to be extruded from the back wall. The idea was fluctuating the appearance between a refined and rough appearance.
Pics: Via

6. NE Salon, Osaka, Japan
NE, located in central Osaka, is a hair dressers shop for a young couple that started up their own business. The austerely-designed salon is fairly small, but has been architecturally conceived as a narrative sequence of abstracted objects and volumes. An iconic stair, free-standing box-like mirrored screens, and a brick room among other things makes NE stand out.
Japanese designer Teruhiro Yanagihara designed this place in a manner that would hide different areas of the salon so as not to reveal the function of the space. This place is a beautiful combination of esthetics and functionality.
Photographs are by Takumi Ota.

7. Fujitsubo, Japan
Fujitsubo, the salon in the Omote-sando area of Tokyo, represents one of the trendsetting centers for the metropolis. Designed by Japanese Archivision Hirotani Studio, the salon is covered in copper sheets. The copper sheets, which change with the passing of time, have been used to express “Time” in an area where information and environments change rapidly.
The building has three roof openings, which funnel light down into the interior where it penetrates to the storeys below due to slit-like glass panels in each floor. The interiors are white and geometrical offering the much-deserved spotlight to the exterior.

8. LIM (Less is More), Singapore
This beauty salon with faceted walls is located within a hotel in central Singapore, and was designed by Japanese designer, Teruhiro Yanagihara. This outlet of the salon chain called LIM (Less Is More), has an interior space divided into three different zones – reception, cutting and shampooing areas - by the faceted structure.
Movable panels with mirrors on them fold out of the wall in the cutting area and can be moved back to create an open space for events and concerts.
The salon can also double up as a gallery, with a small dedicated space located in the timber reception area.
Photographs: Choo

9. Nafi, Basel, Switzerland
The space of this salon is subdivided into two zones, which are being separated by a sharp border. The two areas strongly contrast in their function as well as in their spatial atmosphere. The ceiling and the walls of the entry zone are seamlessly covered with photocopies on packaging paper made from Vogue magazines from the 1920s until today. Opulently furnished and bathed in warm light, the entry is an invitation for a rest, for purchasing products and for discussing the newest styling – trends. In the white working area nothing distracts the work of the hair stylist.
SÜDQUAI patente.unikate. in collaboration with ZMIK have refurbished this hair
Photos: Eik Frenzel

10. Lodge Salon, Hiroshima, Japan
Japanese architects Suppose Design Office created the Lodge Salon in Hiroshima along with architect Makoto Tanijiri, who wanted to design a space without any stereotypes.
The hair salon offers two spaces, one is close and the other is open, to meet demands both of customers and workers. The place is divided in three spaces with a mirror and shelves, and there are no walls just as dividers. To control the height of the partitions made the hair salon possible to have the two types of spaces for both of customers and stuffs who have opposite demands to a salon space. Moreover, the mirror stainless plate also functions to create a flow of the space, and the surface combined mirror and vibration finish could emphasize the movement more. We like!

This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - The Salon & Spa Journal.

Sportstar rockstars

StyleSpeak checks out some sports stars whose game and hair styles have won them equal adulation

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

They are the objects of millions of admiring eyes, and if a sportsman is stylish, their fans take them to a grand new level of hero worship. There are many cases in point. Super stylish Andre Agassi had as many screaming female fans as a pop artist in his heydays, while father-of-four David Beckham still elicits sighs of envy from men across the world. Men like this have set standards not just in sports but also in trends. Here, we do a recce of the sportsmen who love to show off their mane.

Troy Polamalu: America NFL footballer Troy Polamalu’s unmistakable curls are as much his claim to fame as are his football skills. Hair giant Pantene has even gone as far as insuring Polamalu’s locks for a staggering $1 mn!! Apparently, the last time he got a haircut was in 2000, when his coach told him he needed one. No wonder the man has grown such a heedful of tremendous tresses!

Andre Agassi: The shaven-headed Andre Agassi that this generation sees is very different from the vibrant, long-haired tennis sensation that he once was. The eight-time Grandslam singles champion and Olympic gold medalist was known as a flamboyant sport star with a bushy mane. However, he admitted to the world through his autobiography ‘Open’ in 2009, that his famous hair was a wig!

Dennis Rodman: Speaking of yesteryear stars, retired American footballer Dennis Rodman was yet another fashion-forward stars of the last generation. Rodman was equally notorious for his fierce defence and rebound moves in basketball, as he was for his brightly-coloured hair. Rodman’s colouful choices are reflected in the fact that he later turned to professional wrestling and even television.

David Beckham: The poster boy of metrosexuality, David Beckham has had a no-holds-barred approach about personal style ever since he began his career in 1992. Beckham’s hairstyles have garnered as much media and public attention as his marriage to pop star-turned-fashion designer Victoria Beckham, and endorsements. From braids, to spikes, to undercuts to long hair, to a shaved head, there’s nothing David Beckham hasn’t tried.    

MS Dhoni: Back home, the charismatic captain of the Indian cricket team, M S Dhoni, has inspired many a young man. Before assuming captaincy and a generally sober image, Dhoni was a powerhouse of talent with long, straightened hair. He, perhaps singlehandedly, popularized the trend among young men, who rushed to salons to get their Dhoni style hair.

Sreesanth: Sreesanth is yet another Indian cricketer who antics, on and off the field, have drawn much attention. The young sportsman is known for his fiery temper, but he does have a cool sense of personal style. Though not too flamboyant, Sreesanth likes to style his hair in different ways. His trademarks are easygoing spikes, although he often also experiments with colour.

David James: 42-year-old David James is a rather philanthropic man, who does a lot of charity and pursues art in the time that he is not playing international football. But James didn’t always have this image. Until a few years ago, he was actually called the ‘Spice Boy’ for his bold, and often eccentric, choice of hairstyles. While we aren’t complaining about a mellower James, we liked the Spice Boy better!

Ronaldinho: This prodigious Brazilian footballer has been the sports world’s darling for many years now. Apart from his match-winning kicks, what endears him to fans is his cute buck-toothed smile and who can forget those lovely curls? His locks were even auctioned in 2006 for the sake of charity. It is little wonder that each time he gets a haircut or a new style, headlines are made.

Lasith Malinga: He may have retired from test cricket, but no one has forgotten the swing bowling action, that earned him the sobriquet ‘Slinga Malinga’. Another thing that is hard to forget about the Sri Lankan cricketer is the eyebrows he raised when he debuted his ‘curly hair with blonde highlights’ style during the World Cup of 2007. It has since then come to be associated as one of Malinga’s trademarks.

Taribo West: It may not be wrong to say that Taribo West’s primary claim to fame is his hair, although he has played professional football for Nigeria for some years, and represented their team at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. West was often spotted on field with weird or plain crazy hairdos, which were fodder for many articles in the media.

Sergio Ramos: Spanish footballer, Sergio Ramos, singlehandedly made the headband hot! The golden-haired sportsman often had men and women swooning over his unique style and choice of accessory, but has recently had his hair cut. Some even jokingly compare this ‘event’ to Victoria Beckham being caught wearing flats!

Kevin O’Brian: Irish cricketer and vice-captain, Kevin O’Brien, grabbed a lot of headlines in 2011 for scoring the fastest century at a World Cup. But this burly sportsman did another eyeball-grabbing thing around the same time. He coloured his hair a bold pink in support of the Irish Cancer Society. Although his girlfriend wants him to get rid of it, he thinks it is lucky. Well, we think it is pretty.   

This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - The Salon & Spa Journal.

The Glow of Success

The Radiance chain of salons and spas for women is on a roll. StyleSpeak checks out one of their ever-growing number of branches

Urmi Chanda-Vaz

With 16 salons in 10 years and a rollout plan for several more in the coming months, Neelam Prasad’s business skills will impress even the most seasoned players. Since it started out in 2001 as a small one-room parlour, the Radiance salon and spa chain for women has grown in Mumbai by leaps and bounds. Today, it has become a familiar name, and is spread across the metro in easy-to-access locales.  I went to one of their outlets and came away… radiant.

The décor: Whether a Radiance salon is as small as 300 sq. ft. or as big as 1000 sq. ft. the décor follows a standard look. Like their other branches, the Goregaon branch is done up art fully in a white and purple combination. The colours reflect sophisticated luxury, while the round mirrors, and circular lamp centerpiece lend a feminine touch. It works well for the salon, because it is a ladies-only salon. The fixtures are mostly plastic, as wood is consciously avoided as an eco-friendly measure. They also believe in water conservation, and use disposable napkins and towels wherever possible to minimize water use.
Apart from four hair stations that line the mirrors, there is one mani-pedi station on the opposite wall, one reception desk, and one consultation station, which is in the middle of the 600 sq. ft. salon. Additionally, two small treatment rooms, where spa and skin treatments are conducted are at the back end of the salon. There are no wet areas in the salon, and customers of spa treatments are given hot towel cleanses. However, it is the salon services that are the major draw of the Radiance clientele.

The treatments: The Radiance menu card isn’t really a card. It is more like a fat book, offering a staggering 700 services! There are the usual skin and hair services, some advanced therapies, and spa treatments for the body. Their signature services include the caviar and Jen Sun facials. The treatments are priced on the slightly higher spectrum, taking into account their mid-level to elite clientele. I chose a hair spa treatment (one of their most popular treatments), and a pedicure, and found the services to be competent. What attracted my attention in the menu card were the three columns of prices. On enquiring, I was told the discounted price listing is for members. Such listings not only make it convenient for members, but also serve as an advertisement for their membership schemes and loyalty programs.

A smart salon: The popular membership scheme is not the only interesting aspect of the Radiance chain of salons. One cannot help but admire the ambition and business sense in proprietor, Neelam Prasad. She has done several things to ensure that the Radiance chain grows from strength to strength. Since she personally owns and manages the chain, she is able to track consumer feedback, and personally tends to all consumer complaints. Her central communications team is constantly in touch with their regular client base, informing them of new schemes/offers, and they even send goody bags to premium membership customers on their birthdays/anniversaries.

Prasad is as smart with her staff as she is with her clients. As compared to the 40% industry attrition rate, hers is only 20%, because she follows a profit sharing principle with her staff. But while she keeps them happy, she also maintains their standards by conduction regular assessment programs. Philanthropically speaking, she has hired a deaf & dumb therapist, looks after the accommodation needs of her outstation staff, and has helped several women set up their own salons. Her staff is mostly trained from respectable brand academies like L’Oréal, Wella, etc. Speaking of training, Prasad herself runs an academy, which offers guidance and consultancy to people wanting to open salons.   

Going forward: Prasad’s ambitions do not stop at opening one Radiance salon after another. She proposes to include wellness services at her salons, beginning with her Goregaon branch. She has tied up with the brand Body Wellness, and qualified dermatologist, Dr. Monica Jacob will be coming to this branch a few times per week to offer new services like fillers, lipolysis, Botox, etc. Eventually, these services will be made available in all her branches. It will be the next step in Prasad’s dream of making all women beautiful, and glow with radiance!

This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - The Salon & Spa Journal.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Philida by André Brink: Impressions

I started reading Philida with great enthusiasm, compared as the author was with Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the PR note. Sure, there was some trepidation, because Marquez, although magical, is a tiresome author to read. But it had been a while since I read '100 Years of Solitude' and I was ready to take on another work that promised to be 'Marquez-esque'. Alas, I was reminded a few pages into the book that PR notes are only to be half-believed. That is not to say that André Brink is not a good writer or Philida not a good book; but it is not half as fantastical as the award-winning Spanish writer.

Coming to Philida, the story is set in the Cape in the year 1832 and is about a slave woman, Philida. On the eve of slave emancipation, the feisty Philida's voice of dissent kicks up some serious dust on her master's farm. Tired of unfulfilled promises of freedom by her lover and father of her children, Frans Brink, who is also her master's son, Philida approaches a slave protection agency and files a complaint against the Brinks. Predictably enough, Philida is banished from the Brink farm with her children, but she takes with herself her desire for freedom onward to life on another farm.Eventually, her dream is realised but not without some trials by fire.

While the plot is straightforward and even unimpressive, André Brink's strength lies is in his use of language. Although the novel is in English, the flavour of Afrikaans comes through very strongly. It is easier to empathise with the slave woman Philida, who speaks in the way English movies have made us believe Blacks do. Brink's talent as an Afrikaans writer has been recognised with him winning South Africa's most important literary prize, the CNA Award, three times. He has also twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Another aspect that makes 'Philida' interesting is the author's ancestral connection with the protagonist. Had I not glanced at the acknowledgements page (as I usually do), I would have missed out on this important tidbit. The story is not entirely fiction, for Philida really features in the Brinks' family tree. It has made the author write like one would about his own.

Brink also throws in a good measure of philosophy in his narrative, and that is perhaps why some see the resemblance between his work and Marquez'. Sometimes, there are whole chapters on philosophic 'discourse' veiled in African myth. So, prepare to sometimes trudge through lessons from a chameleon's point of view or look at life through a bamboo copse.

Philida took me a long time to finish, dragging me through the long, hot days of the Caab (Cape), breaking my back with the injustice of the life of a slave, making me witness the atrocities of the Baas (Boss) and finally letting me breathe the intoxicating air of freedom. Take up Brink only if you can take all of it.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra: Impressions

I'm tired. I've obviously read too many mediocre Indian English authors lately, and when Once upon the tracks of Mumbai came my way for a review, I was prepared to not like it. And the book cover didn't make any good first impressions. But once I started reading it, I warmed up to it, and was soon immersed.

Rishi Vohra's unlikely protagonist, Babloo (or Balwant Srivastava, as I learnt in the last chapter) soon draws the reader into his joyless existence. Ignored by his family, unemployed and unsuccessful, Babloo lives the typical life of a lower middle class youth by the noisy tracks of Mumbai's local trains. But the greater bane of his life is his mental condition. Babloo is afflicted by a combination of mental disorders, that include Autism and what looks like borderline Schizophrenia. And this is where author, Rishi Vohra does a fabulous job. As a trained mental health professional, I would have found any 'fictionalising' of mental health conditions, unacceptable. But Vohra's novel is well-researched and it does not for once feel like he is trivializing or making fun of the protagonist's condition.

The narrative is mostly a first person account by Babloo, and the reader is witness to the kind of challenges even everyday living pose for the mentally ill. Vohra very realistically sprinkles the 'blank uncomprehending stares' and 'monosyllabic answers' Babloo gives people and the internal dialogues he has throughout the novel. The limited nature of his relationships with people in and outside his family are kept wonderfully consistent through the book.

The only exception is the character of Vandana, who Babloo loves and dreams of being with. Vandana is a sensible yet romantic girl. She is the only one who treats Babloo with some empathy, but cannot see his love. She falls for and is almost raped by the neighbourhood loafer, and much to her chagrin, is engaged to Babloo’s younger wimpier brother, Raghu. But an unexpected turn of events leads to Vandana's alliance breaking up, and Babloo finding a new identity. Does Babloo win over Vandana? Does his illness come in the way of him finding love and glory? With gossiping neighbours, a courtroom drama, love, heartbreak, villain-bashing, Mumbai's endless train tracks, media frenzy and even a 'superhero', the author keeps the reader hooked.

For his debut novel, Vohra has done a neat job with nicely fleshed out characters. The plot is inventive and the language, effortless. It is not difficult to empathise with Babloo, despise Raghu, hate Sikander, like Vandana, and generally admire the novel's easy style. The book is perfect for light reading and will appeal to people who appreciate this new crop of young, Indian authors. My only advice to Vohra is to find a different book cover designer when he writes his second book, and oh, think of a shorter title maybe.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Dance with me

This is my first double spread collage, and you guys have NO idea how long it took for me to find the chick's hand. Well, what's art without a little pain (in the neck?)

Comment, share, etc. :)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Powder Room by Shefalee Vasudev: Impressions

Powder Room made me wait. Powder Room made me read (and review) many other books. I wanted to lay my hands on it the moment I saw it in the list of books Random House India wanted me to review. It came to me after a while, and was worth the wait. Shefalee Vasudev's debut book held this special attraction for me because I am closely allied to the industry and wish to crossover sometime in the near future. The glamour of this world, as Vasudev testifies, is undeniable, and I am drawn to it like thousands in this country.

Powder Room, however, makes people like me think twice about charting this murky territory, and therefore succeeds as a book. It means to tell the inside story of the glittery, dog-eat-dog world of fashion, and it does so without mincing words. Although non-fiction, the book reads like a story, with a generous sprinkling of anecdotes that render the near-legendary fashion personalities, real. She also, often, speaks of her own experiences as the 'misfitting' fashion journalist, offering the reader fairly intimate views of what goes on in the wings.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, each offering insights into different aspects of the fashion industry. Fashion, explains Vasudev, has many faces: a sales girl at a luxury brand's kiosk in a city mall, struggling female and male models by the dozen, powerful and experienced models, rich industrialist wives, young designers, old designers, fashion journalists, luxury brands, tailors and masterjis, retail chains, fashion weeks, Page 3, Bollywood, fashion magazines and artisans to name a few pegs in this complex tapestry. The author tells the story and struggle of each of these players to help the reader understand the rather large, and often ugly, underbelly of this industry.

As the ex-editor of Marie Claire, Vasudev has an insider's perspective on fashion. That she has written this book after leaving the fashion world has served her well, and helped keep the book objective. When she narrates the life stories of, say, Nagma - the B grade model, or Rohit Bal - the King of Indian fashion, Imcha Imchen - the young and depressed designer, or the Salvis of Patan - the last standing family of Patola weavers, it is all believable. The author claims to have interviewed about 300 people as part of her research for the book, and it shows in the extensiveness and conviction with which she writes about fashion. Whether it is the politics of the designer lobby, the marketing tactics of international brands, the poor conditions of weavers, the lack of a code of ethics, the gigantic egos of designers, she knows what she is talking about.

The book concludes with the author's disenchantment with the world of fashion and her eventual exit from it. Fashion journalism, Vasudev states, is really a sham in this country, where brands with clout and money run the real show. Powder Room shows how in this world of excesses, any person with half a conscience soon begins to squirm with discomfort. Yet the lure of its arclights is so powerful that it draws people like moths. Those equipped with the author's clinical detachment, swim, and those without, sink.

Read this book for many such truths.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Nude 4

The fourth nude of my ongoing series of 10 done on my Adesso graphic tablet.

Monday, October 01, 2012

I dream severe dreams

(Image source:

I dream severe dreams
That brand me with fire
Dreams of willful fingers (yours)
Inking me with desire.
Your touch, it causes
ripples upon my skin
You’re smiling at the pattern
(for it spells S-I-N)
I am rooted, as the fingers move
stirring up a storm,
they tease, then please,
find their way across my form.
Dreams of lips follow
[I can feel my body jerk]
My throat parches, my toes curl,
My breasts swell, perk.
Your masterful tongue
Comes next, to speak and seek
My heart roars, my breath heats,
(I’m crumbling), my knees go weak.
I dream severe dreams
That brand me with fire
I am afraid to wake up
So fraught with desire.