Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fashion Goss logo


Have I ever told you that I've always had this itch for designing logos? Well I do. And because no one will ak me to make one for them, I made one for myself. So Fashion Goss, my very own fashion blog got its very own logo! This was made with elementary tools like MS Word and MS Paint. Pretty, ain't it?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Yin and Yang

I finally gave vent to my urge for collage art. I think my maiden work has turned out pretty good. What say you?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai: Impressions

I’ve never read an Anita Desai work before. Strangely enough, I don’t recollect having read even one article about her. Either I’ve missed out on it, or the media has never painted any glorious pictures of her. She is not scandalous, Kamala Das-like; she is not glamorous like a Shobha De; nor is she controversial, in the manner of Arundhati Roy. (Or is she?) The Wikipedia page on her is woefully lacking. Apart from the fact that she is a Sahitya Akademi winner, I know nothing. When I started this book, I knew not what to expect. But having finished ‘The Artist of Disappearance’, I want to know who Anita Desai, the person, is. What person writes like this? From whose pen flow words with the terrible beauty of death wishes? But she won’t give in easily. I must perhaps re-read the book, look carefully again between the lines, to understand the source of such enigma.

Yes; ‘enigmatic’ is the word that best describes ‘The Artist of Disappearance’. It is a collection of three novellas – ‘The Museum of Final Journeys’, ‘Translator Translated’ and ‘The Artist of Disappearance’ – stories of strange internal worlds, stories of crumbling, lost people and places. It is as if Anita Desai found the beautiful in the broken, and captured their fall as one would with slow motion photography. You will find it its pages an old IAS officer reminiscing about a an old curator of a forgotten museum, a middle-aged, middle-class teacher on an odyssey of translating a quaint book, and a hermit-artist living in the charred remains of his house, creating strange patterns in nature.

Unhurried – that’s Anita Desai’s writing. Beautiful, slow and sure amidst hoards of books that move so fast, there’s no time to think. I picture this writer, who has emerged from a 7-year literary hiatus with what is probably her last book (God forbid!) with stories about dwindling. She is weaving the emptiness of her own aged world into these pages. Sometimes her lines are labored, with the kind of effort an arthritic person makes when climbing the stairs. But there are so many breathtaking moments too. Especially in those magnified descriptions of nature. There are the kinds of observations people with the luxury of time or the love of nature make. I imagine the 70-something author as having them both. And what exquisite results they yield for the reader.

I don’t know how it is with her other books, but with this one Anita Desai takes time to grow on you. She doesn’t snare, she doesn’t tease, she doesn’t titillate. She grows surreptitiously on you like moss on rocks. Now she isn’t there, now she is. In the first few pages, you don’t know where the story is going or what the point of the story is. In fact, if you are looking for a traditional end, you may not find it even at the end of the story. Because her stories have no end. They are leisurely strolls through forgotten roads of old towns. Embark on ‘The Artist of Disappearance’ only if you can slow down and breathe deep.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wellness for Every Season

The towering Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai holds within itself an oasis of tranquility. Step into The Spa and watch your worries melt away

The menu of The Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai opens with a very interesting phrase: Invest in yourself. These are precious words of wisdom for any city-dweller lost in the chaos of existence. Up on the treadmill of routine, we seldom have any rest, little time and no peace. We forget how we abuse our bodies and minds in the daily grind; we forget about our brakes. Holding the menu in your hands and reading those words remind you of what you owe yourself. Those words remind you to stop, breathe, relax and most importantly, thank your body. They remind you that a much-needed spa session is what you should get and start afresh.

Feeling welcome
The Spa is spread over two floors of the Four Seasons Hotel and occupies a generous area. Upon entering the Spa Lobby Level 3, one is greeted by welcoming faces and an ambience that is contemporary, yet Indian. Little ethnic touches, like an elegant chest here, a flower pattern there, add warmth and a welcome air to the place. The Spa lounge plays soothing chants that puts visitors in the mood to unwind and relax. A retail area features several products used in the treatments, including perfumes, and ‘Gentlemen’s Tonic’ – the well known men’s grooming line on display. Clients may buy them, or simply acquaint themselves with products that will be used in their spa treatments. The Spa Manager then hands you a questionnaire with questions about your general health and medical conditions, as a part of the consultation. Based on the answers, you are recommended a treatment and explained its merits. The comfort level of the guest is ensured before any treatments are commenced.

The concept
The Spa likes to call itself an Indian spa, but it uses several Western treatments in tandem with Ayurvedic/Indian ones.  However, the ethos is Indian and it is reflected at several levels, like in their decor, their conduct and most importantly, the products they use. The spa extensively uses products from international brands like Lotus Wei, Sundãri, Ilā, and Forest Essentials, and Tathastu among others from India. These brands are not only Ayurvedic/Organic/Natural, but some are also known to support several NGOs. The Spa strives to support brands that support such causes. In fact, The Spa plans to eventually use all organic products for their treatments.
In keeping with their Indian approach, the spa offers complimentary Yoga programs for all spa members at the Yoga studio called Yoga Mudra. There are daily Sunrise Yoga sessions (at the rooftop) to start the day with, private and group Yoga sessions and even an Executive Yoga program, designed especially for the jet-setting professional. A meditation hall is adjacent to the Yoga studio, where clients can escape into tranquil recesses.

The interiors
As far as hotel spas go, The Spa at Four Seasons, Mumbai, is a sizeable one with almost 23,000 sq. ft., including the pool and the salon. It operates on the third and fourth levels of the hotel. Level three features the spa lounge and the men’s wet areas and relaxation lounge while the fourth level has eight treatment rooms and the women’s wet area and relaxation lounge. The interiors look warm with wooden furniture, earthy and pastel colours and plenty of natural light. In treatment rooms that require privacy, oil lamps or candles add to soft lighting.   
There are eight treatment rooms in all, all named after Yoga asanas. The Vajrasana and Nararajasana rooms are coupletreatment rooms, with twin massage tables and a massive tub for two in each room. The Tadasana room or the Kerala room is where Ayurvedic treatments from Kerala like Shirodhara are given. The other five treatment rooms are single rooms. Strangely enough, the name plates of these rooms spell these names as Vajra-sana, Dhanura-sana, which looked rather odd because the proper suffix is ‘asana’, e.g. Vajra-asana… However, Sanskrit grammar apart, these treatment rooms are beautiful and very well conceptualized. It is here that therapists offer their clients treatments listed in the spa menu. Specific audio CDs with sacred chants and prayers complement the treatments, and massages strokes are often in tandem with the calming rhythm of the music. All the rooms have mood lighting, and the colour of the light changes in accordance with the treatment. Each room has its own private steam, shower chamber and locker room – something patrons really like and appreciate.  

Solus per aquas
Like all luxury spaces, there is a swimming pool alongside the spa. This rooftop pool is a private little sanctuary, with several cabanas and a small bar serving juices and drinks. There are even mini-treatments (20 minutes long) available at the poolside! From a separate spa menu called Cabana Comforts, clients can choose to have a quick head, hand or foot massage, which are named after the sun, moon and earth respectively.
However, one of our favourite spots at The Spa was the wet area, within the Changing Rooms. Besides the usual lockers and changing areas it features a wonderful expanse of the Vitality Lounge with its various ‘wet’ facilities. Guests are spoilt for choice here, with a choice of hot and cold Experience Showers, a Steam or an Ice Fountain to cool down with.   
However, the most wonderful feature of this wet area is the Vitality Pool. With its metal grill back rests and bubbling water, the pool looks absolutely inviting. Clients can soak in after a treatment, or simply step into it to wind down.
Speaking of winding down, The Spa has a dedicated Relaxation Room, where patrons can unplug, relax and even catch 40 winks post treatment!

The treatments
The Spa offers treatments divided into four main sections, namely Body Therapy, Ayurveda, The Ilā Experience and Face and Body.
 Massages of varying intensity – Ojas (intense), Tula (medium) and Mukta (soft) are offered under the Body Therapy. Other treatments include regulars like the Hot Stone Therapy and the non-so-regular ‘Apoha Mizra. In fact, the latter is exclusive to The Spa at Four Seasons and is a unique combination of western techniques and Ayurvedic healing traditions.
The Ayurveda menu includes the highly popular Shirodhara, Pada Mardhana (intense foot massage), Uzhichil (body massage) and Shiro Mardhana (head massage).
The Ilā Experience therapies make exclusive use of Ilā products and include a Body Marine Algae Therapy, a Marine Facial, a Rainforest Rejuvenation Facial, a Ku Nye Massage (Tibetan), a Kundalini Back Massage and even a Pregnancy Scrub and Massage.  The Spa is one of the very few places that offer treatments for pregnant women. This gentle therapy employs a mild scrub, massage and music meant for the well-being of both, the mother and the baby.
The Face and Body package includes three Gotu kola variants – Firming Body Envelopment, a body polish and a firming facial. There are two other facial variants too called the Sundari Facial and the Neem Healing Facial. But the most popular treatment that belongs to this category is the Roopana Body Ritual. This treatment is often preferred by couples, and involves a neem-based treatment.
The Spa prides itself for its simple menu that offers clients clear choices. Assistant Spa Manager, Kamal Rana says, “We have kept our menu simple, so as to not confound our clients. The choices are straightforward, without being restrictive.”

The highlights
One of the distinguishing things about The Spa is that all their therapists are CIDESCO & CIBTAC certified. Even if freshers are hired, they are trained in house and are tested for their skills regularly. Of the eight therapists (7 women, 1 man), four are trained in Reiki and use their skills to complement the regular treatments.   
The Spa frequently introduces special programs and promotions, whereby special client categories are catered for. These include, for instance, discounts for senior citizens, ‘Spa and Dine’ packages for couples and even an innovative one named ‘Eat, pray, spa’.

Another notable thing about The Spa is the intelligent business strategy they have employed in terms of membership and accessibility. The spa is open to not only in house guests and spa members, but also walk-in patrons. In fact, 68% of their footfalls comprise such walk-in patrons. They also have a decent number of members at present. Lastly, the spa has a dedicated gym and a Rosano Ferretti salon. 

With big endevours and small, The Spa strives to make a client’s experience memorable and makes you want to ‘Invest in yourself’ time and again. 


Opened in: 2008
Area: Over 23,680 sq. ft. (over levels 3 and 4)
Location: Worli, Mumbai
Spa manager: Anjna Poonia
Spa timings: 6am to 10.30pm on all days
Appointments: Pre-fixed, beginning at 9am every day
Gym timings: 6am to 10pm (flexible on request)
Pool timings: 7am to 7pm
Number of therapists: 8 (1 male, 7 female)
Products used: Sundãri, Ilā, Forest Essentials, Tathastu
Certification: CIDESCO & CIBTAC certified therapists
Specialities: Pregnancy massage, couple treatments
Most popular treatment: Roopana Ritual
Client profile: Mostly middle aged males


(This article appeared in the Jan-Feb 2012 issue of Spa Mantra - a B2B magazine for the spa and wellness industry. The article can also be read here.)

The luxury ticket to Phuket

This  stunning island may be small, but it is big on the choices is offers spa connoisseurs

Think Phuket, and you can’t help but think of beautiful beaches, tropical sunsets, luxurious spas, and a ton of fun! It is not for nothing that Phuket commands these wonderful images to one’s mind. Over the years, this sunny little island from Thailand has built up the best hotels, spas and other luxury destinations. A favourite among not just Asians but travellers from across the globe, Phuket offers so much that one is spoilt for choice. We take a look at the 10 best spas from among the hundreds that dot the city.

1. Banyan Tree Spa
Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts is one of the most luxurious chains and respected names in the hospitality industry. Each of their facilities is truly world-class, no less their spas. The Bamboo Tree Spa in Phuket that opened in 1994, was the first luxury oriental spa in Asia and pioneered the concept of a tropical garden spa. It was among the first to offer beauty and health packages with holistic approaches – a tradition that has since been adopted by spas across the world. Presently, they offer packages that go by evocative names like Tranquility Hydromist (for men), Tropical Rainmist, Harmony Banyan and Royal Banyan among others. 
For the highest standards it adheres to, the Banyan Tree at Phuket has been a winner of several accolades. Among these are being ranked number two in the Top 10 Asia Resorts category at the Condé Nast Traveler 20th Annual Readers' Choice Awards. The resort was also ranked number eight in the Top 100 Resorts of the world.
Banyan Tree Spa Phuket
33 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road,
Cherngtalay, AmphurTalang
Phuket, 83110
Ph: +66 76 324 374

2. Golden Tulip Ayurvedic Spa
The spa at the Golden Tulip Mangosteen Resort and Spa is the only one in Phuket to operate entirely on Ayurvedic principles. It has a certified Ayurvedic doctor, who offers a detailed consultation and analysis to patrons before beginning the treatment. The ‘Dosha’ of the patron is determined before prescribing the most appropriate treatment or therapy. It combines Yoga techniques with Ayurvedic treatments for complete rejuvenation.
The other great attraction of the Golden Tulip spa is its locale. It is situated on a secluded hillside and offers a panoramic view of four bays around it. In this unique setting are offered their signature treatments like Chakra Balancing, Dosha Purifying, Atma Healing, and Mangosteen Ayur Journey.  Other long-term health treatments also available here include Kaya Shodhna (detoxification program) and Rasayanam (rejuvenation) which take up to four weeks. 
These Ayurvedic treatments, combined with the stunning locale truly make the Golden Tulip Spa one of the best spas in Phuket.
The Golden Tulip Mangosteen Resort
99/4 Moo 7, Soi Mangosteen, Rawai
Phuket, 83130
Tel: +66 76 289 399

3. Anantara Spa
Reviewers have often noted the attention to detail that has gone into the making of the Anantara Phuket Villas that is steps away from the Andaman Sea. Designed by the renowned Bill Bensley, a balance between the beauty of the surroundings and the beauty of the architecture is maintained throughout the property, especially the spa. The spa has five luxurious treatment suites, two suites with private terrazzo soaking tubs, a dedicated Ayurvedic suite, a couples’ treatment room and a traditional Thai sala for yoga and massages. In its serene environ, clients can choose to have any of the traditional Thai or Ayurvedic treatments.
The spa offers the signature Pearl of Andaman Treatment, which refreshes the body and mind with a floral foot ritual, followed by a traditional Chinese Herbal Back massage, shower, a Pearl Facial and finally a refreshment ritual. Other treatments include a Thai Herbal Compress Massage, the Journey of Siam, and the Lullaby Sleep Therapy among others.
888 Moo 3 ,Tumbon Mai Khao,
Amphur Thalang, Phuket 83110
Tel: +66 (0) 7633 6100

4. The Spa, Paresa Resorts
Look up Paresa Resorts on the Internet, and you will see only wonderful reviews about this beautiful resort on the Kamala Beach in Phuket. Little wonder that it was the winner of the Traveler’s Choice Award in 2011. The resort, with its idyllic location, provides the perfect setting for the exotic treatments it offers at the Paresa Resort Spa also known as the Kamala Phuket Spa. Treatments are inspired by ancient Thai healing rituals, and the spa, features 5 double treatments suites with baths and steam showers, and private balconies overlooking the Andaman Sea, where patrons can lounge and relax.
The spa specializes in detox and offers a variety of programs, starting from three days to 28 days. Several therapies are employed during the detoxification process, including the Ambrosia Therapy, Elixir Therapy, Meditation Therapy, Movement Therapy, Music Therapy, Scent Therapy and Treatment Therapy. These treatments coupled with their famed hospitality promises to make a visit to the Paresa Resort a great experience.
49 Moo 6, Layi-Nakalay Road
Kamala , Phuket 83150
Tel: +66 76 302000
Email: or

5. Trisara
For those who like their beaches and their quiet, the Trisara Resort in Phuket is the perfect place to escape to. Located on the comparatively undeveloped north-western coastline of the island, the sea-facing resort with big walled-in gardens is tailor-made for people seeking privacy.  The spa within the resort is spread over 16,000 sq. feet with six private treatment suites, a treatment room for two persons, and the usual steam, shower and changing rooms.
The highlight of the spa is the Royal Trisara – a massage involving three masseurs simultaneously. The products used for their treatments are 100% organic and they work in partnership with expert herbalists who offer Purification and Revitalisation programs. Additionally, guests can avail of the yoga and meditation facilities.
60/1 Moo 6,
Srisoonthorn Road,
Cherngtalay, Thalang,
Phuket 83110 Thailand
Tel: +66 76 310100

6. Palm Spa, Twinpalms
Twinpalms is one of the most popular traveler hangouts in Phuket with its restaurants, nightclub, beachclub and especially The Palm Spa. The world-class spa, like the rest of the resort, is known for its chic, modern and minimalist interiors and an array of treatments. From detoxifying body wraps to a Swedish Massage to a traditional Thai Massage, the treatments are all top of the line and are done using the best in spa products.
The Palm Spa specialises in some super-long treatments, called the ‘Dream Packages’ that can take up to four hours. Take for instance the ‘Dawn till Dusk’ package that includes a steam, Jacuzzi, polish, wrap, massage and facial and takes four hours. If that sounds too long for you, similar packages with lesser durations are available too, like the ‘Daydreamer’s Duluxe (3 hours)’, ‘Siam Traditions (3 hours)’, ‘Surin Essentials (2 hours)’ and ‘Bid Stress Farewell (2 hours)’ among others.
106/46 Moo 3,
Surin Beach Road,
Cherng Talay,
Phuket 83110, Thailand
 Tel: +66 (0) 7631 6500

7. Tew Son Spa, Katathani Beach Resort
The spa at the Katathani Phuket Beach Resort gets its unique name from the swaying Casuarina or Tew Son (in Thai) trees that line the property. The spa even has a special Casuarina Leaf Enzyme Wrap as one of its treatments on the Spa Menu!
Located in the secluded Kata Noi Bay, the Katathani resort has won awards by Thailand Tourism many times over. Far from the madding crowd, the Tew Son spa makes for a wonderful place to unwind and relax. The spa uses the best products to administer age-old Thai massages and treatments. Notable among them are the ‘Secrets of Siam’ couple’s treatment and the 4-hour-long Katathani Paradise package. Other routines include an Aromatic Herbal Steam, facials, a roof-top Jacuzzi, foot and body massages and manicures and pedicures.
14 Kata Noi Road,
Karon, Muang,
Phuket 83100 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 7633 0124 to 6
+66 (0) 7628 4096 to 100

8. Spa Royale, Mom Tri’s Villa Royale
If a royal treatment is what you want from your spa in Phuket, the place to go to is Mom Tri’s Spa Royale at the famous Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Boutique Hotel. Created by renowned artist and architect, Mom Tri (also a descendant of the Thai royal family), the multiple award-winning hotel and its spa offer traditional and luxurious treatments to its clients.
Among the treatments offer at the Spa Royale are steam baths, facials, body and foot massages, body scrubs and wraps, and aromatherapy massages. Notable among them are the Tamarind with White Mud and Yoghurt body treatment and the Royale Treatment's Siam Bouquet body mask and gentle scrub that uses a centuries-old recipe with a blend of nine flowers used by ladies of the court in the royal palace.
12 Kata Noi Road,
Kata Noi Beach,
Phuket, 83100 Thailand
Tel: +66 76 333 568

9. Aman Spa, Amanpuri
The Aman properties are all known names in the wellness industry, but the Aman Spa at Amanpuri, Phuket holds a special place. It was the first full service spa among them and has been a firm favourite among regulars.
The Aman Spa features six huge Thai-style pavilions that have been tastefully done up with wood and glass interiors. Expert therapists offer personalized assessments to clients and recommend tailor-made treatments. Treatments are given only with the best quality handpicked oils and creams made from organically-grown plants. The most noteworthy treatments include the essential body cleansing scrub with Himalayan crystal salts, the Envelope Me wrap that uses red or white Argiletz clay, the Zone facial that involves reflexology and their Swedish-sports fusion massage program. Yoga and meditation are complimentary.
Pansea Beach, Phuket 83000
Tel: +66 76 324 333

10. Phang Nga Resort and Spa, Aleenta Phuket
Here is a spa within a resort with a green heart. The Phang Nga Resort and Spa at Aleenta has won many accolades, notably Thailand’s Best Small Green Resort. The Natai Beach on which it is located, has been awarded 5 stars for cleanliness of beach and water quality, which speaks volumes about the standards the resort maintains.
Apart from cleanliness, what is unique about the resort is the spa here, called the IV Spa. It is so called because it offers four signature treatments inspired by the four elements viz. the sun, moon, earth and sea. Called the Sun Experience, Moon Experience Sea Experience and Earth Experience respectively, each is a combination of treatments like facials, wraps, scrubs and massages. It also offers something called the Traditional Experience with time-tested Thai techniques and even a special Couples Experience.
33 Mu 5, Khokkloy
Phang Nga 77220,
Ph: +66 2-514-8112


(This article appeared in the Jan-Feb 2012 issue of Spa Mantra - a B2B magazine for the spa and wellness industry. The article can also be read here.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Prince of Ayodhya - Book one of The Ramayana by Ashok Banker: Impressions

So, I’ve taken upon myself the reading of the seven-part Ramayana series by Ashok Banker, which has gathered considerable acclaim since the time the first book was published. I will be reading the series alternating each part with another novel to avoid fatigue. Not that Banker’s writing is tiresome; but there’s only so much one can endure of the same style. So the book reviews will also come in that alternating sequence, and in reviewing them, I will treat each book as an individual entity rather than as part of the series.

Of the two great Indian epics, the Mahabharata is a clear favourite of many because of its complex layers and the imperfect hence ‘real’ characters. In the Ramayana everyone, save the villains, seems to be doing the right thing. At least on superficial reading, the characters of the Ramayana seem all black or all white, and the story the same old good versus bad. It is much easier to identify with the Mahabharata than with the idealistic Ramayana. It is so much easier to love a flawed Krishna than a perfect Rama. It was because of this irritating perfection that the Ramayana never got through to me. My little knowledge of the epic was based on the Ramanand Sagar production aired on Doordarshan so many years ago when I was a little girl, and through snatches of the popular stories that are part of the great Indian collective consciousness. For me, Ramayana could be summed up in 7 sentences. 1. Rama marries Sita. 2. Goes to a 14-year-old exile with wife and brother in tow because his stepmother wished and his father said so. 3. Ravana abducts Sita. 4. Rama and his wanar sena defeat Ravana. 5. Sita is banished, has two sons in forest, reunites with Rama after a while. 6. Rama asks Sita for a ‘faithfulness’ test; Sita passes test, but is so pissed with Rama, she kills herself. 7. And the sundry lived not so happily ever after. The end. But I knew there was a lot more to the Ramayana than the version in my head. And without knowing that I was waiting for a version of the Ramayana that was equally accessible and exciting, I was waiting for it. As for all things mytho-religious, I realised my hunger for it once I heard about Banker’s series last year. I let my hunger grow, and bought the whole series once the seventh and the last book was out. I am not disappointed. The Prince of Ayodhya is as pacy an epic as you will ever see. Written in a style that will conjure graphic novel images in your head, the story moves fast. Characters from the far-removed Treta Yuga come alive speaking Banker’s modern tongue, with a smattering of Hindi. The use of Hindi words seems to me as unnecessary and at best, eccentric. His easy English is good enough to transport a reader to the Aryan city of Ayodhya and beyond. But what is most admirable about the book is the depth with which the characters and the plot is explored. That Rama and Lakshman went on a demon-slaying mission with Maharishi Vishwamitra right at the beginning of the Ramayana is something I’ve never heard before. That Dasarath was a typical Aryan king with a healthy sexual appetite and had many concubines apart from his three wives is another fresh bit of information. Popular mythology laced with religion tends to tone down and gloss over many such details. Rama also, for example, has been portrayed in some places as a perfectly normal teen. There is also a healthy dose of magic and sorcery, which in some places reads like an LOTR or a Harry Potter. That said, if Banker’s claim of replicating the original Ramayana in the most part is to be believed, then this series is a good place to start for those looking to savour the epic in its entirety. I am certainly looking forward to starting book two of the series.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Beautiful Truth by Diana Hayden - book review

A Groomed Goddess

Erstwhile Miss World and grooming expert, Diana Hayden, divulges in the essentials of grooming in her first book, A Beautiful Truth

Reviewer | Urmi Chanda-Vaz

We’ve read column after column on make-up tips, fitness, and skin or hair issues in magazines. We’ve seen lifestyle gurus offer advice on TV. But rarely, if ever, has there been a complete resource that a woman might turn to for quick, easy solutions to everyday questions about grooming. In what looks like a first, Miss World 1997, Diana Hayden has offered women a one-stop book offering complete grooming solutions.
The simple yet extensive book A Beautiful Truth: The Art of Grooming for Women has a self-explanatory title, and Hayden covers a host of issues that fall under the purview of female grooming. There are various categories including Body Shape & Clothing, Innerwear & Underwear, Accessories, Skincare, Make-up, Haircare, Bodycare, Posture & Poise, and Health & Fitness, in which she offers clear and precise mantras. Beauty and hair enthusiasts will find the sections on Skincare, Make-up and Haircare especially useful.
Hayden follows a simple format throughout all the sections, where there is general information about the subject, some DIY instructions, some Dos and Don’t’s, Tips and Tricks, and concluding them with three mantras she lives by. Notably, the author always offers safety advice, which is woefully lacking in most Indian writing.  
The thing that struck me the most about this book was how matter-of-factly it has been written; how wonderfully free of pretense it is. Hayden writes it like it is for a regular woman, and does not sound like a beauty queen in an ivory tower. She peppers the book with anecdotes and memories from her life that makes the advice seem real. Hayden tells you how to reach for the stars, but with her feet fixed firmly on the ground.


This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of StyleSpeak - the salon and spa journal

Mindsight by Dr. Dan Siegel - book review

The book does not exaggerate when it says it offers ‘The new science of personal transformation’

Review by | Urmi Chanda-Vaz

Even before I got around to understanding the idea of mindsight, I was reminded of the vast and inexhaustible powers that our minds and brains have. Reading this book by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel was like revisiting all those postgraduate psychology classes from years ago. I thought I had forgotten them, but with page after page, recollections of all the major concepts came tumbling out. I could pick up on the trail where I had left it. We truly never forget anything entirely. Our entire pasts and tremendous capacities for our futures lie within our minds. Mindsight is about channeling the vastness of the treasure of the mind.

One of the first things about this book is that it can be understood, enjoyed and applied equally by a mental health professional, a wellness expert, and a layperson, who wants to live an enriched  life. Mindsight, as Dr. Siegel defines it, is ‘a process that enables us to monitor and modify the flow of energy and information within the Triangle of Wel-Being’. One can learn to observe one’s own thought processes, the motivation behind actions, the formation of reactions, and thus guide one’s behaviour in fruitful ways. In simpler terms, mindsight is cultivating heightened mindfulness.

The book is written in two sections. The first section explains the basics of the brain - its anatomy, structure and functions, and is meant for those who either have no background in psychology or who, like me, would like to brush up on their fundamentals. It is in this section that the author introduces the readers to the common hand model of the brain, which he uses repeatedly in his therapy chapters later on in the book.
The second section is about Mindsight. Professionals may jump straight to this section, and begin to delve into this innovative therapeutic process formulated by Dr. Siegel. In every chapter in this section, the author begins with a case study from his own practice, which focuses on one issue. Non-clinical and common issues like those of relationships, self image, self confidence, phobias, and psychosomatic pains are highlighted in these case studies. Dr. Siegel then demonstrates, how with the help of mindsight, he helps his patients integrate their pasts and presents,  find and rectify problem patterns in their relationships, and open up channels of communication.

Dr. Siegel explains that the points of the relationships-mind-brain Triangle (of Well-being) are interconnected, and how one cannot do without the other. Through a simplistic model of the brain, he explains how our brains are wired, how mindsight can help form new neural circuits, and consequently ‘grow’ our brains and our ability to form nurturing relationships with ourselves and those surrounding us.
Apart from the application of mindsight in a professional setting, it is a great tool for everyday living. Mindsight empowers us with empathy, positivity, and clear reasoning, and can be applied to fix many problems in life. It is, as the book proclaims, a powerful new tool for personal transformation. Moreover, the book is easy to grasp with concepts so lucid, that anyone will be able to understand and apply its simple yet powerful principles. Mindsight helps cultivate wellness in our minds, which then extends to our bodies, and finally our entire lives. It is a good book to read and keep at home, in spas and wellness centres, offices, or any place where people matter. 

About the author
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel is a psychiatrist with nearly two decades of experience and is currently the clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. Apart from that he is the executive director of the Mindsight Institute and the author of several groundbreaking books on the same subject.


The article appeared in the May-June 2012 issue of Spa Mantra and can be read on the website as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012



He undresses me. He turns off the lights. In bed, he takes me in his arms and I close my eyes. But I have not been able to close my eyes, and shut it all out. You travel the years, the darkness, and are there. Always there. I see you so clearly, it’s frightening. I don’t think I saw you then like I do you now. At the end of every day, when I lie in bed - alone sometimes, sometimes not - you are there. Hijacking my present, hijacking my all. You left long ago, but you never left, did you?

Because the other morning, when I turned away from the mirror, I saw a flash of red in my reflection. How did that happen, when I removed every shade of that colour from my life after you left? Because a few moons ago, I remember hearing footsteps climbing outside, in the corridor, your characteristic drag, that little tap against the wall with your fingers. Rat-a-tat-tat. Because just yesterday, I opened my cupboard and caught a strong whiff of your cologne. You never left, did you?

I catch myself snapping at my lover because he is not you. Then I bite my lip, and fake affection. He has no clue. He does not know of the strings attached. Strings so long, they have years for yards. Hooked to the nape of my neck, the small of my back, heck, my heart even, these strings traverse distances unknown and place their ends into your hands. You perhaps do not know. But you play me still, like you did in those days and nights of dirty love. I laugh thinking how you left, but never really did. My lover stops. He senses something odd - like a sheet of glass between our bodies. But he cannot see it. He never will.

So why leave at all if you had to continue haunting me? If you had to flash through my mind seconds before he loses himself in me? If you linger on, like yesterday’s perfume, in the crinkle of my eye, the lines on my palm? Why do you linger, half here, half wherever it is that you have gone to, your life at a standstill and my life...? Hanging on by threads that look like they are about to snap but they will not, they will not. They have frozen over, delicate, fragile beyond any bond ever formed, but frayed over time in the glare of your going.

He kisses my mouth, seeking my tongue, but the taste of your being interferes. I respond, but haltingly, reminding myself this is him, this is not you. He runs his fingers through my hair, down my back and my legs, but my pleasure is marred by the memory of your fingers. I respond, but haltingly, reminding myself this is him, this is not you. Not you. My love notes are not entirely his either. Words meant for you keep slipping in, and I crumple sheet after sheet. How you still punctuate the story of my life.

He can sense so much amiss. I feel terrible for him on days when I am alone. I feel terrible when I see his naivete, when I hear him tell his friends I am not easy to ‘get’. When I slip in and slip out, to him it is mystery. Mysterious. It fascinates him. He tells his friends I am not ‘that into him’. He is drawn to this, this lack of the real me, this lack of a total presence of me. Like a moth to fire, he does not see it is going to suck the life marrow out of him one day. But he can sense so much amiss. I see it flit across his face when I smother your name on my tongue before it escapes my lips. I see it reflect on his brow when I jerk his fingers away when he tries to find mine, almost as if a stranger touched me.

He turns away, sulking, his pride hurt. But his manhood won’t comply. I see his body has gotten used to mine, his heart to my love (or pity or sympathy). I take his hand to apologise without words, and can’t help but see how his fingers are nothing like yours. I’ve never quite gotten used to his stubby, awkward fingers. Fingers that don’t know what they are doing, where they are headed. I remember your hands, those beautiful, confident hands, even as I hold his, and juggle three lives. He is fast appeased, his eagerness most apparent. He begins to make love to me again, hungrily. I recognise this hunger. This isn’t much unlike what I felt for you. Not at all unlike what I still feel for you.

And so I wonder, sometimes, if that is why you left me. Was I too eager? Too hungry for you? Did I yearn too much? Did I hold on too much? Did I show you how vulnerable I was with you, how much I needed you, not just to love me, not just to make love to me, not just to tell me that you found me breathtakingly beautiful, but to be that tower of light to a ship lost on sea? Did I cling too much? Did I smother you and scare you away? And this, now, this odd, frighteningly clear presence of you that I have around me night and day, is it just me? Is it the idea of you that I am projecting on to every present moment I have? Am I killing my now because I want to hold on so badly to our yesterday?

Questions there are no answers to. It is like having to lay in bed with a million demons. Where are you now, I know not. Why you left without a word, I know not. What we could have been, I know not. Yet I must live in the shadow of your presence, wear it like my skin, breathe your memories like my life depended on it. I must love another (for who can live without love?), knowing it will never be the same, no man will be you, no passion so perfect. I let him nibble my ear, gush love-laden streams into them, and I find myself laughing. I am not pretending either. Pleased, he leaves. But I hear your laughter too, calling me a sentimental idiot like you did. I resign myself to him, and to you. Strange, aching threesomes. Perhaps I will learn to live this way...

But perhaps, I will not survive this breach. This rip in loyalty, this splitting of my spirit into two. Perhaps, I will not survive this choice, while I stand here now, on this ledge, looking down into this dark, grey abyss. Perhaps, in the mangled remains of my physical form, he will see that crack too and he will understand why I never seemed to possess my own body. Minutes away from now, I will not have to make this choice anymore. Minutes away from now, I will have forgotten my name, your name, his name. I will have forgotten these lines as I teeter on this edge, between life and death. This rush of wind and the quiet it brings is liberating. The numbness on my skin will be a relief from the memory of your fingers on my flesh. Finally. Finally, my eyes shall be able to shut it all out.

(Co-written with Reema Prasanna @ScrollsNInk)

Monday, May 14, 2012


(Image source: Seismic_2000's Flickriver stream)

Someone has died.

Someone I know not from too long ago, died. He was a colleague from my ex-ex-workplace, and he died last evening. Young, boisterous, beer-guzzling, kebab-loving AK died of some terrible kind of stomach infection. I find out on Facebook this morning. I am shocked, sad, upset. I leave a customary RIP message on that post made by my ex-ex-boss. But because I am on Facebook, and I have 10 minutes before getting ready for office, I proceed to 'Like' some posts and pictures of other friends. Someone's even had a baby. "Congrats!" I say.

But someone has died.

A mother's son. I am given to tears. No parent should have to live through the death of their offspring. I am trying to remember if he had a girlfriend. I am wondering about crushed dreams. I am also looking at the clock and cursing myself. I could be late. I hate getting late. I run into the shower, and I am thinking to myself how uncertain life is, and how hot the water is. I turn off the geyser. The cold water feels nice on my sweat-dried, worked-out skin. I am reminded of the ritual of bathing dead bodies before clothing them in finery for their last journey. I am also taking mental notes about buying soap on my way back home from work. I like Mysore Sandal Soap.

But someone has died.

AK won't need soap again, or the money to buy soap. He won't need to worry about getting to work on time, or working at all. He won't need to stand in front of the cupboard and decide what to wear. But he must have done it all a week ago, perhaps a month (I don't know how long he was ill). How inconsequential all of it seems now. But the pink skirt is what I choose. It's not ironed, but it's okay; people will be looking at my freshly-waxed legs anyway. Irreverently, 'Yai re, yai re, zor lagake nache re' pops into my head. It is perhaps the skirt that invoked the image of Urmila swaying to music. I brush it off, chastising myself. I wonder at the measure the human mind takes to cope with bad news/grief/disorder. Anything to maintain the semblance of the normal. I wear my Titan Raga watch. It has been nicely fixed now. The glass face was broken. I also wear some dangly earrings - with a heart and a star on it. Must scoot. I wonder about the wisdom of wearing heels today.

But someone has died.

Someone who, just like me, cared about how he looked. He and I won the "Best Dressed Employees" that year on Diwali. He made the effort to adorn his body. But he doesn't have a body anymore. Taken away just like that. With something as 'lame' as a stomach infection. Why, I get those all the time. This doesn't seem real... ("R.K. Studio", I tell the rickshaw wala. These darned shoes are still giving me shoe bites)... Until last week, a young person dying of a heart attack seemed unreal. A junior from college. And until three weeks before that a young person, a college mate, committing suicide seemed so. News-y things happening to people I once shared spaces with. My world has three less familiar faces. These faces didn't mean much while they were living, but now that they are gone, the gap is noticeable. Not for long, though. Perhaps this is what it feels like when a tooth is extracted. You stop noticing it after some days. These guys here, drinking chai and smoking cigarettes, sending admiring glances my way as I walk up the steps of the office building, won't miss me if I stopped coming to office; if I stopped existing. For now, they make my effort to match my lipstick with my outfit seem worth it. I am drifting. I am going about my life, my work, as I would everyday. I am on Twitter, on excel spreads and word documents, on fashion websites and messengers, and good old Facebook, where a picture of AK, along with a condolence post by other ex-ex-colleagues remind me that     

someone has died.   

I am thinking people become pictures so easily. Like a little hiccup in our routines. Tomorrow, the lame jokes will start. But that's the thing about being alive. About worrying about groceries, and EMIs, an old crush, a new love, illnesses, weight loss, familiar sex, good music, favourite movies, pride, regret, old friends, new friends, and so much more. It is also about getting bugged with interns' questions, as I am now, about getting irritated with the excessive sugar in the watery coffee that this peon makes, about feeling elated at having helped change people's course of life, about sleeplessness that comes when your young children are young, or old. I think I am beginning to shed the romantic notions of dying young. For the first time, I feel greedy about living. There are so many people to live for, and so much in life to celebrate, although

someone has died.   


Friday, May 11, 2012

Ties that bind

(I am quite vocal about my dislike of parenthood, so I surprised myself when I found my answer to this question.) My most significant, memory-laden gushingly sentimental object is a little blue plastic clip.

It's no ordinary plastic clip. The little blue clip is an umbilical cord clip. The one they used at the hospital to stop blood from oozing out from my firstborn's body once they cut him off from me, moments after his body became separate from mine, moments after he became his own person. The remnant umbilical cord dried out and fell off along with the clip a few days later, but I've kept the clip, as I will for the rest of my days.

The clip to me is a symbol of letting go. The first of the many heartbreaking times in my life when I will have to let go of my son. It is my first lesson in holding back. So many things and people and situations will claim his share - even pain. And I will have to bite my lip, root my feet, and fetter my heart using all my might to hold myself back; hold myself back from protecting him or showing my love. Love unlike anything I've experienced before. A love so powerful that sometimes it threatens to take over my existence. The most selfless love there can be. A love that can perhaps be born only of giving birth. And a love that is returned by him in all its earnestness - at least for now.

But I know there will come a time when the river of his love will have run its course, thinning down perhaps to a tiny trickle, divided into many streams for many people. There will be a time when I will no more be the woman of his life, the holder of his hand. There will perhaps be a time when he, full of dreams of a new life, goes away.  But I will know, holding the little blue plastic clip in my hand, that he can never be too far. An umbilical cord is never really cut.


@MentalExotica, as she is known on Twitter has been asking people this pertinent question recently: “What is the most significant, memory-laden, gushingly sentimental object currently in your possession?” – Andrew Kaufman. The answers she is collecting in her precious project blog. This post is my partial answer to that question.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino: Impressions

I stopped reading thrillers some years ago, mostly because I don't walk away with anything after the story has ended. Perhaps I've not chanced upon good thrillers, perhaps all thrillers are the way I think they are. The joy of style apart, very few thrillers leave you with bits of themselves after you've put the book down. But when I happened to spot The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino on Blogadda as part of their book review program, I decided to pick it up for three reasons: one, they were giving away 100 copies; two, I was curious about non-Murakami Japanese literature; and three, 'I haven't read anything light in a while, and this thing has sold 2 million copies, so why not?' So I read it and as usual, I'm empty-handed at the end of it.

The Devotion of Suspect X is not a bad book. The language is crisp, the plot racy. I enjoyed it while it lasted, like one would enjoy drunken sex perhaps. But if you asked me what the author's name was after three days, I wouldn't remember it (if you know what I mean). Higashino is a good writer as mystery/thriller/crime writers go. If The Times review is to be believed, he is even like Stieg Larsson (not that I knew who Larsson was before I Googled him). His characters are well-sketched, his plot well-defined, and his ending, twisty. 

But how the story concluded I have a problem with. 'Contrived' is the word I'd use to describe it. I also have a problem with the title of the book. The devotion part I can understand, but who the heck is suspect X? I know who it refers to after having read the book, but why the author chose to call the person Suspect X on the cover when there's not even half a mention in the whole book is beyond me. Another thing that I didn’t appreciate about this book, like many other books written in this manner, is that there is no whodunit. The reader is made privy to the murder and the murderer right in the beginning, and all through the plot, one can’t help but feel that the wild goose chase is for nothing. However, it is the twist in the tale that Higashino wins all his points for. Because I cannot say anything about the twist without betraying the plot, I won’t.

The plot revolves around three principal characters – the beautiful, middle-aged Yasuko, her neighbour, Ishigami, the quiet genius of a Maths teacher and Yukawa, a physicist doubling up as a sleuth. Yasuko’s vulnerability as a single mother, Ishigami’s unruffled surface, and Yukawa’s cunning are all brought out beautifully. The author captures well the chemistry between these characters, and well as the other secondary ones. He keeps the interactions real and the setting vivid, enabling the reader to visualize the story as it flows. Even though I am not a fan of this genre, I can easily say that for those who love thrillers, The Devotion of Suspect X is definitely worth a read.  


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Friday, May 04, 2012


Dusk had started its greedy journey of claiming real estate across the lands. Like a witch’s sinewy hands shadows grew, consuming a chunk of grass here, some trees there. Soon the land would be flooded with darkness. A darkness that perhaps no new sun would be able to erase again completely. The skies bore a hint of melancholy as she waited, patiently, for their arrival. But within her, behind the veils of reasons, a storm awaited.

The air was thick with incense. An everyday ritual in the palace, whenever the sun took a graceful exit. But that particular day she felt as if the smoke would snake across the gleaming floors, crawl up around her like an innocent creeper and choke the remaining life out of her. Such had been the impact of the news she had received. She could no longer see the poetry of the colours that had always been her one resort of solace. No more would the fragrance of flowers bring her peace. Not that day would the arrival of her heart’s beloved master and emperor, Arjuna, make her rush to the threshold to greet him into her arms. Everything was whirlpooling into a blank. A void. And she had started to ask questions that she feared she already knew the answers to.

He mused at the lightness and heaviness of the air. The breeze brushed past his arm as playfully as ever, fragrant like the new bride by his side, yet it was laced with a gloom, a cold, that he knew the palatial air would be like. He absently placed his arms around that warm nubile body as they walked, his steps light with anticipation, and heavy with guilt. Subhadra, that beautiful creature made of misty mornings, seemed to be floating alongside him. So different she was from Draupadi - that woman of flaming beauty. Yet how similar they were in their love for him. He sighed, his broad shoulders drooping under the weight of what was to be. “I should learn to live with paradoxes now,” he thought to himself. Even as a gale began to rise from the pit of his stomach, he wondered what was going through Subhadra’s mind, and let the chariot soar.  

She repeated her name in her own head, over and over. Subhadra, Subhadra. Auspicious. Blessed. Her whole life had brought her to this one juncture where she was on the brink of questioning why she was here. What was she learning? She felt Arjuna’s body radiating guilt and a measure of worry as they swooped towards Indraprastha in the air-borne chariot. She was reminded of a child that had to go home after a day of rule-breaking to a waiting mother, ready to be chastised. It almost made her smile. Auspicious? Who could ever tell what Krishna had planned for her, for Arjuna, for Draupadi? But she had learnt one thing from all her time with this flute-player that everybody seemed to adore; everything you perceive is the tip of the iceberg. As they stepped out of the chariot and walked up the palace stairway, she remembered that it was she who had ridden the chariot. She had made Arjuna elope with her, albeit on Krishna’s instructions. She knew she could shield Arjuna. She also knew she would never have to do that until Krishna called for it.

The chambermaid came in and announced that the valiant Pandava had arrived with his new bride. Without batting an eyelid, Draupadi nodded her head in acknowledgement. It was so mechanical and instant that it was almost as if she had heard the maid’s voice inside her head. “Here he comes now” she told herself and began walking towards the main door. “How do I make him see what burns inside me?” she wondered, as her legs, unwillingly, dragged her towards him. “What misses the great Gandiva-bearing Pandava’s eyes? Nothing.” she reminded herself and approached the giant gold embroidered doors that somehow seemed taller than usual. Heavier and more merciless than what she had of them in memory. Every inch of her body was aflame with feelings that had been so alien to her. But she was no stranger to fire. It was her home, after all. So she awaited the pristine moment that would convert this raging wildfire inside her into a placid lamp.

The first thing she spotted was just Arjuna. For a fleeting moment all the rage within her disappeared. Could it be true? Was it really just him who stood there outside the door? Had he abandoned the idea of crushing her tender heart and decided to smother it with more love instead? A droplet of happiness pushed itself out of her eyes as these thoughts made home within her. But as she blinked in anticipation, the mist grew thin. And her smile, shaped like the beautiful Gandiva, was cruelly broken. Standing next to her Arjuna was the new girl. Krishna’s sister and the new stakeholder of her beloved’s heart. Subhadra. The tears in her eyes froze from the heat that now surged through her, turning them from transparent pearls to translucent sparks. Red with reason. Red like the tongue of a flame.

Arjuna froze too. Draupadi’s eyes locked into his, a million images flashed through his head. He remembered the Swayamwara, and Draupadi’s eyes when she first saw him there - she had smiled a bashful yet knowing smile. She knew that no one but him could win the contest. It was designed for the archer supreme. He remembered her victorious eyes again, when he stood before her, neck bent to wear the varmala, past all his contenders. Her eyes full of dreams when they walked together towards the Pandavas’ kutir in the forest. Her confused eyes when Kunti and Yudhishtir discussed dividing her into five parts. Her hurt, angry eyes, when they made the biggest decision of her life. Nobody had asked her then. Nobody had asked her now. She had acquiesced then to not giving all of herself to Arjuna. But would she agree now to not having Arjuna all to herself? Would she agree to a painful splitting again? He couldn’t tell.

All Arjuna saw were proud, angry tears, that streaked Draupadi’s fiery beauty. The tears singed him. How would he ever explain why Subhadra was here at her door, claiming to be another wife to him? How would he explain that his love for Draupadi hadn’t died, but a new love for Subhadra had been born? He summoned his voice with great difficulty. Words came forth from his throat like arrows, hurting his mouth, his head, his entire being. “I come to ask of you again today, to share what you hold dear. Would you, my love, give up a little of me?” His sigh melted into Subhadra’s - two united breaths. The first words had been uttered. They didn't know if it would annihilate them or embrace them - but at least the floodgates had been opened.

The wind from Arjuna’s and Subhadra’s sighs amplified the already roaring firestorm inside Draupadi. She collected herself, inhaled deep, and looking at Subhadra’s downcast eyes, said in a clear distinct voice  “Greetings, O great son of Pandu. Would you be so kind as to also tell me why this is being asked of me?”

Subhadra put a restraining arm on Arjuna. She had sensed his lips part, ready with a reply but she had also seen Draupadi’s eyes boring into hers. She knew it was a question thrown at her. She could see that Draupadi, this glorious, powerful creature literally born of fire, had faced betrayal before from Arjuna. She hardly expected an answer from him. But a woman, a woman just like her in so many ways, how could she do this to her? There were a thousand questions in Draupadi’s fiery glare but Subhadra was protected. She looked into those red eyes, gently tilted her head and noticed something. She was home. There was Krishna everywhere. There were his symbols strewn across Indraprastha and in this moment, when those should be least of her concerns, Subhadra’s heart leapt in joy.

Peacocks strolled languorously in the sweeping gardens surrounding Indraprastha. She heard the gentle note of a flute playing somewhere far away. Draupadi was exactly how Krishna had described. In that one moment, she knew she was meeting a part of her own soul; a lover of Krishna, no different from who she was. Arjuna’s first queen, no different from who she was. “You don’t have to,” she whispered, glancing at Draupadi’s red-lined feet. “Krishna sends me.” A tear drop rolled down her eye as she uttered her only truth.

For a brief moment Draupadi’s fury seemed to find a sense of calm. Such a magical concoction lay in Krishna’s mere mention. In Subhadra’s words she could almost hear Krishna’s melodious voice. She relented, briefly. And in that brief instance she realised how tender Subhadra really was. Krishna’s name in the conversation had started to kill the fires. But it wasn’t comforting. The sting of desperation resumed with renewed energies when her gaze shifted to Arjuna, standing like a rock, next to the new girl.

“Did Krishna just send this new gift to Indraprastha? Or did he also send some arrow-tipped words with the great Arjuna? Why do I not see that quiver strapped to his person? What words will you choose, O famous Pandu putra,  to explain this truth to me?” Draupadi said, without mincing her words, aiming them straight at Arjuna’s bosom.

“How do I say this, Panchali?” Arjuna began. “ How do I begin to mirror what churns beneath my skin? How do I explain the motivations of Keshava, which my actions have fructified?”

“He, who is sarathi to me, sakha to you, and bhrata to Subhadra has brought us together, like three flowers bound with one string. While it was Madhava who prompted me, Subhadra who whisked me away, it was I who has chosen to love and be loved back. Yet, dear Draupadi, I love you no less. While it was in the soil of your heart that my love first took root, I cannot now thrive without the water of Subhadra’s affections. And the sunlight of Dwarkadhish’s blessing is indispensible for all of us. You have been, and remain, my first love. In the name of that love, I implore you, in the name of our rashtra, I implore you to accept Subhadra. Accept her because it is Krishna’s will, accept her because it is my doing, accept her because it will make our state stronger. Accept her as you will partake in all of my karmas as my ardhangini. Accept her as your sister. All Subhadra seeks is a little place by your side, our side,” he said, turning towards his new bride.

Draupadi looked away. Krishna, it occurred to her, had indeed sent well-sharpened arrows with Arjuna. Each one of them made their mark on her hurting heart. With each new pierce the grief and rage in the pit of her stomach only worsened. Her mind was filled with memories.

“Acceptance...,”she said slowly. “You have chosen your words wisely, O valiant one. Many moons ago, was it not this same request for acceptance that gave me more than the man I had chosen at my Swayamwara? Was it not the same venom of acceptance I had been made to forcefully consume in the name of dharma, in the name of rashtra, in the name of the betterment of all humanity? What guile had been used against me back then to accept five husbands instead of one? How strategically was I implored, time and again, to consume within me the flames of someone else’s decisions? A land that was supposed to be your empire, a haven that would flourish with your monarchy, a golden oasis of nectar that would extinguish the flames of my passion, had to accept the hands of four more men to rule it. Yes, I accepted. I accepted relinquishing you for four years at end. I accepted standing equally with your shadow wherever you went. I accepted the tiny piece of attention I got from your war riddled lifetime. I accepted them all Partha. But the only gushing waterfall in the dense rainforest of my little heart. That one small stone of pleasure on which I sit today along with you in my arms....”

She turned now to face Subhadra.

“ being taken away from me. That singular tree I sit under. Krishna’s truth, I must admit...” Draupadi continued as the ghosts from her days bygone began choking her voice. “ not cutting down that tree Gandeevi. It is killing that tree’s only existent, life-giving, pleasant shadow. And what is a tree without a shadow? That, I cannot accept, O Dhananjaya...” she said looking expectantly into her beloved’s eyes.

“Do not accept it, then," said Subhadra. You are well within your rights to send me back. You are my king’s first queen. He first found love in your eyes, in your embrace. The love of an equal, the love of a woman, he found it first in your words and your silences. And I? I am but a pawn in this story of life. While I have loved your Arjuna more than I have ever loved any man, I harbour no illusions about what position I hold in his life, and in your life with him. I know why Krishna chose to name me Subhadra. I know I am being used. But that also tells me that I am useful. I do not know what Madhava plans. I am blessed with only human eyes and a human intellect and it is not for me to show you what lies beyond the horizon. I can only tell you that I place my unflinching faith in Govinda, in his plans, no matter how dark the clouds loom over the horizon.

“So send me back. But know this, Panchali, that the responsibility of refuting Krishna’s word rests heavy on your already-laden shoulders. Know this, O Krishnaa, that you make Krishna who he is. To refute his word is to go against your own grain. Remember. And I shall go in peace.”

Arjuna looked distraught. Tearing in the middle, fraught with pain. He looked at Subhadra, in awe of her stand. Yes, she was a woman who could steer destinies as well as she could steer chariots. She was, after all, Parthasarathi’s sister. Then he looked at Draupadi, a woman cast in embers, flaming with a passion of love and defiance, teetering on the edge of a decision.  

Draupadi smiled. Not at what had been said by the new love in Arjuna’s life but at the familiarity of the situation. She recalled the words of her father, the great king Drupada, back when she was just a child. On an evening not too unlike the one that day, the aged king had made little Draupadi sit on his lap and told her the magical story of her birth. He had spoken of sacred fires, as tall as mount Meru itself, that had roared relentlessly for several days as many renowned sages had prayed to the heavens to grant the king a gift. “The gift,” Drupada had whispered in the little girl’s anxious ears “was wrapped in gold, yellow and red. It was made of fire. It was as if Lord Agni himself had walked into my humble home holding this beautiful little bundle of unbridled bliss. A little girl born of fire. A little soul that had the command of turning empires to dust with its fury and also the gentleness of giving warmth to shivering mortals.” The girl, amused at this comparison to fire, had laughed out loud. “Yes..” the king had added. “In time, you will see my little fire flower, that there will gather skies above your head that will need you to choose. What kind of fire will you unleash? Will you burn down castles of ambitions? Or will you set afire a million hopes?”

A tear rolled down Draupadi’s cheek. Much like the one Subhadra had let out a few moments ago while releasing her truth. This was Draupadi’s truth now. Her lifetime of truths wrapped in various boxes of acceptance from different corners of the universe. Her dark exterior had, much like the shadows cast by the Parijata tree, absorbed all the heat the world gifted her with. She recalled Arjuna’s look of surprise and admiration back at the Swayamwara at having spotted her singular beauty. But she wondered if he knew how many rabid energies had penetrated her to make her glow from the inside. Today, under the skies as dark as her, Draupadi was being asked the same question her father had asked her. What will she be? The generous flame that consumes everything it is presented with? Or the uncontrollable hurricane of anger that spares no one, vaporizes anything that comes its way?.

“Krishnaa exists because of Krishna...” she finally managed to mouth. “Had it not been for the immortal hands of Keshava, the many mortals who have ruled Draupadi’s heart would have extinguished her long ago.”

She looked at Subhadra. It was true what she had heard of her. Just like her brother, she had been born with the gift of words. But how different she was from him too. Unlike him, who chose his words to show the way ahead, her words seemed aimed to herald the truth of today. This moment. This heartbeat.

Subhadra stepped carefully over the threshold and approached Draupadi. Draupadi stood, barely balancing herself on her two feet, almost in a daze. Subhadra covered the last few steps towards Draupadi in a run and clasped her arms around her. “I know. I stoke no fire. I am not water. I will never put you out. I am Krishna too. And I will hold this earth beneath your feet. Forever and beyond,” she whispered. Words that passed only between her and Panchali. Draupadi felt frail in that one moment, like embers about to die out and Subhadra knew it was her job to fan them to keep them going. There was a long journey ahead. This life had hardly begun.

Draupadi’s fury came out as tears. Much like the waterfall in her mind’s forest, this was generous too. Much like the shadow of her singular tree, this was greedy too. Greedy not just for claiming Arjuna’s sole rights to her heart, but greedy for this new vision of Krishna to, hopefully, make the forest fire in her become a lamp that would brighten the dark days strewn like fallen flowers ahead. She held on to Subhadra.

Subhadra held one hand out behind her. They would never be complete without Arjuna. Arjuna held it fast.

In that one moment a confluence was created. The life forces of three strong streams merging into one. The barriers breaking between the elements of fire, water and earth and forming one divine. Arjuna saw Draupadi melt, forging a bond between her and Subhadra, forming one Prakriti with two faces, to accompany him, the Purusha, into the future. “Paradoxes,” he mused, “exist only as long as we fail to perceive the larger, divine picture.”

By accepting duality, we understand the presence of the One. It is this One that may sometimes play life’s sweet music on the banks of the Yamuna, and sometimes send life’s toughest choices in the way He sent a Draupadi, a Subhadra, an Arjuna, a Draupadi and a Subhadra, an Arjuna.

(Co-authored with @Shakwrites and @ScrollsNInk)


Leela struck some deep chords, not just within me and Reema, but also in some others who read us. One such person was our mutual Twitter friend Shakri, who expressed interest in doing another collaborative project on a mythological subject with us. We were only delighted to agree, and after some deliberation agreed to write a fictional piece based on the Mahabharata on the Draupadi-Arjuna-Subhadra situation. And we did. We picked one character each by drawing lots and put together a spontaneous piece that has taken the form of Trividha. I will not reveal who wrote what. If it seems seamless, the purpose was achieved.