Monday, 2 February 2015

Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2015

When I embarked on my maiden visit to the Surajkund International Crafts Fair, held every year during the spring season from February 1-15, little did I know that I would come back home with my hands full of “steal deals”, an aching heart that longed to see more and a pair of fatigued legs that underestimated the sheer magnificence, expanse and grandness of India's one of the most popular fests.

Organized every year in Surajkund, Haryana, near Delhi, by Haryana Tourism Department to promote handicrafts items, this year the local-turned-global mela just got bigger and better. The cultural festival offers a podium to celebrated artisans from India and across the world to showcase their expertise, be it textiles, artefacts, traditional handicrafts or cuisine. But what really enhanced the charm of this place was its vibe and ambience, played up well by vibrant paper flower motifs, Dhokra art from Chhattisgarh, bejeweled camels, bedecked folk dancers and of course, the tremendous talent pool. 

On display was something for everyone. Melamine crockery selling by the kilos, wall mounted shoe racks, weather-proof garden furniture, Korean quilts and vials of suspicious looking potions were just some of the unexciting products that greeted us first. But as we entered the cavernous fest, a riot of colours began to explode before our eyes. There were reams and endless reams of diaphanous Indian textiles along with handmade wooden toys, paper and leather craft, glass wall accents, massive timber art, contemporary pottery and terracotta, warm knits and booties, Punjabi mojris and many more wow-worthy bits and baubles that enthralled and overwhelmed us.

Toys galore

Global appeal

Interestingly, this year 18 countries are participating in this grand fest. Many world-acclaimed artists from countries like Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Thailand, Syria and more were seen exhibiting their skills. Definitely a good move to attract tourists and cater to all kinds of tastes.

Chhattisgarh is the theme state of the 29th Surajkund International Crafts Mela 

The food court

The visitors were spoilt for choice as specialty cuisines from different Indian states were on offer. People were also seen thronging the all-you-can-eat buffet @ INR 200 only. We were quite impressed by the slick clean tables that were neatly covered with industrial sized aluminum foil and great service by the helpers who promptly whisked away used plates. Since Lebanon is the partner nation for the Surajkund International Crafts Fair this year, a team of Lebanese master chefs is specially flown in to whip up delectable delights. We were quick to sample their food and glad we did. The winning bites from Beirut were Falafel (crispy fried vegetarian patties served in bread with salad and spread) and Fatteh (Pita with chickpeas and yogurt). At Rs 150 a plate, this food was wholesome, fresh and very palatable.

Clearly, Pushkar's cousin now has a personality of its own that is drawing thousands of spectators every year. Here are a few more pictures from the mela. And yes, if your heart beats for all things Indian, we recommend you take out time to soak up some winter sun in this fun place.

Strolley bags to stash your bargains

The quintessential setting


A really giant wheel built on the lines of the London Eye

My pretty Punjabi mojris with tassel detail

I got myself some flowers from the Thailand stall

Entry fee: Rs 70 per person
Timings: 9:30 am to 7:00pm, everyday from February 1-15, 2015

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Microsoft’s Glamorous App Tasting Event

So when you are invited to a Microsoft event named appetizing apptasting hosted by drool-worthy gadget guru Rajiv Makhni and Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna, it’s difficult to say NO. Ofcourse, the opportunity to wine and dine with like-minded women from the WOW aka Women on Wanderlust club, made this evening just one-of-its-kind.

Spot me!

 The #LumiaApptasting evening showcased some of the finest collection of mobile apps available on Lumia devices. Specially designed for women travellers, there’s an array of apps focusing on self-defense, awesome imaging and even a face swap to break the ice with co-travellers.

I particularly liked a Microsoft device that can track belongings and a feature that lets you scan your location, anywhere in the world and talks about the local events happening within the radius of few kilometers. That sounded very cool, considering impulsive travellers like me love to explore on foot. Another smart app allows you to quickly translate the language in any part of the world as you converse with the locals there.

Hosts Rajiv Makhni and Vikas Khanna

As the glamorous evening unfolded, over a hundred women dressed in ‘pretty pink’ enjoyed endless goblets of Sauvignon Blanc and scrumptious entrées. But the real attractions of the event were its dishy hosts Rajiv and Vikas who had women in splits with their wisecracks, visual puns and double entendre jokes. Ofcourse, after meeting so many wonderful women of the WOW club, I am so kicked about going on an all-women adventure trip. That will happen soon.

Monday, 17 November 2014

8 things that I don’t ‘Like’ about facebook

Each time I stumbled upon rehashed listings on Facebook, I wanted to write one of my own. As I said, this blog is also about the peculiar people I meet, so here's something about them!

Incessant status updates: Some people use Facebook as a social NOTworking medium. They will key in minute-by-minute updates of their personal life including mundane stuff like the inclusion of the 36th colour changing panda in their kid’s toy collection. For the uninitiated this panda comes with a chocolate, i.e. Cadbury Gems surprise ball, to be precise.

Unappetizing food porn: While we appreciate delectable closeups of cakes and curries, our sore eyes need a break from insipid images of shapeless paranthas and a mound of rice drowned in watery gravy. We suggest these food enthusiasts join specific foodie groups on FB to hone their culinary skills ands not launch an attack on our nerves and feeds.

Storm of Selfies: We like this new social sensation of self-clicked pictures but fail to understand why people put up some unsightly and ridiculously close bizarre images of themselves. There are times when anatomy of a human nose and a set of coffee stained teeth are shoved right into our faces. Eeeeks.

Wannabees: They buzz like bees around several social networking accounts and have an opinion about everything, ranging from Modi to manicures. A wannabee will share everything with the world, her new phone, her 'complicated' relationship status and her philanthropy pictures of the ‘rice bucket challenge'. She is just a wee bit more irritating than her male counterpart.

Mr and Ms Dislike: These social animals with an IQ of a tablemat will like anything and everything that appears on their feeds. Be it earthquake aftermath pictures or a bone chilling video from a war-torn region, they will hit the like button irrespective of the content.

Religious intolerance: It's silly to trigger off religious blame game on social media threads. Wish some people could learn the balancing act and not exhibit their extreme views about religion on a social platform. In fact, a recent study revealed that the most common reason for unfriending someone is that the person posted polarising comments often about religion or politics.

Fake viral videos: We have seen too many of these cropping up on our feeds shared by gullible friends. A few sample titles are: 'The real truth about disappearance of MH17 airlines', 'Human meat found in McDonalds burger' and 'This wonder fruit helps melt belly fat’. Somebody at FB should immediately put a stop to all this nonsense.

Happy pictures of your ex: Heart can sink and stomach can churn when you secretly stalk your ex on FB only to see him/her doing just fine. In fact, their happy pictures in exotic locales with a good-looking partner make matters worse. WHY facebook W-H-Y? Let bygones be bygones.

P.S.: This piece was written for DLF's magazine High5. So, it was trimmed down or else I could go on and on..

Monday, 30 June 2014

5 trends that have changed the face of Indian Wedding Market

Ok, so I have been wanting to write this post for a really long time, but paucity of time and inclination rendered me lazy. But it’s never too late to share some oddly-funny, mind-churning changes in the Indian wedding market that I have noticed lately. A few months ago, my younger brother got married and I was naturally the ‘go to’ person for bills, barbecue and band! So, having personally witnessed a big wedding closely, today I am getting down to compile my little list of trends that have changed the face of Indian Wedding Market in the last decade.

Before I begin, I must admit that I got married almost eight years ago in New Delhi. But this whole new wave makes me feel that it has been eons. Though the changes are evident in metropolitan cities, I am sure in small towns, the Desi heart still beats for a conventional wedding. Nevertheless, here’s my list:

1.) Pre-wedding shoots: So when I got married in 2006, Facebook was in its innocent embryonic form and people still used their phones to make calls. Selfies sauntered in much later. Wedding photography meant getting those toothy smile shots done by the neighbourhood lensman who had done a fairly decent (read reasonable) job at Chinki’s shaadi. But, cut to present, and here we have elaborate pre-wedding shoots. Yes, something that happens before the couple actually mutters “I Do”. Clicked by professionals, these shots are candid moments between the bride-to-be and the groom-to-be. That’s not all. We also have romantic HD videos involving families and glamorous photo-booths for the big day.

2.) Caterers: Today, the bride shrieks at the mere mention of a Halwai. Her size minus zero friends squirm looking at the kachoris. And no one has the time to visit the sabzi-mandi to buy fresh produce in bulk. Everything is offloaded to a professional caterer who lays out fancy schmancy multi-cuisine like Thai, Italian, Vegan and much more apart from the mundane Mughlai. Moët & Chandon flows freely along with exotic cheese and fruit platters. From stewards to cutlery – everything is taken care of. For desserts, cupcakes have elbowed out motichoors and chocolates look prettier than plain Jane barfi. Ofcourse, mithai is passé and there is little traditional about gifts accompanying the wedding cards.

3.) The dressing up: With a whirl of designers armed with a strong PR team, now every bride secretly wishes to clinch a Sabyasachi or a Rohit Bal outfit for her big day. Perhaps, it's because so much has been said and written about them. I never cared much for what actresses wore at the Cannes or Colaba. But today, I really know who wore what. Sometimes the information is shoved into my face by popping adverts, while in some cases, I happily click away to fashion blogs. Yes, it has affected me and changed the way we women look up to fashion. Clearly, the strong marketing campaigns, teasing tabloid pictures and big haute couture sales have spurred the aspirational values in the conventional Indian bride. The wedding dress would usually be from a modest store that mom set her finger on or stitched by the next-door darzi. Make up usually meant Lakme or Maybelline. Today, nothing less than Mac or Bobbi Brown shines. With smoky eyes and nude lips – today’s blushing bride looks a lot different from the panda-eyed, gajra-clad Messy Miss of yore.

4.) Band aur Baaja: I think, by the time my child grows up, she would probably get to see the humble shehnai and nafiri only in the National museum. As a kid, I have participated in many bombastic wedding celebrations that were made dramatic by eye-popping, ear-smashing light and music shows, courtesy the indispensable brass bands and entertainers. Remember the fancy burnished red uniform, jhumar, tashe, atishbazi, tubelights and the works? They all seem to be fading into oblivion now. Who’s to blame? People or their changing tastes? Well, in a clear exit from the past, the latest trend is to have tastefully and sometimes distastefully arranged musical functions. There’s an eruption of Sufi singers, Yo Yo Singhs, out-of-work Indian Idols, classy live bands and private DJs - all jostling for their share of space in this Grand Indian Wedding Market.

5.)  Gold is old: While gold continues to be on the wish list of every bride, the girls and their families do not view this metal with the same love and affection anymore. Gold is not bought solely as investment and there are diamonds, emeralds, rubies and platinum making a foray into the jewellery boxes of traditional brides. I could not help but notice my South Indian friend who clearly skipped the tradition of wearing innumerable gold neck pieces and instead wore a dainty diamond string on her wedding day. Ofcourse, the bride is happy to experiment - there are brazen ear cuffs, studded collar necklaces and cocktail rings with kitschy motifs in her listing. 

The list is actually endless. There is a dramatic shift in every aspect of nuptial ceremonies. The brides are wearing gowns, the rock on her finger is growing bigger, the Hijra community (eunuchs) is demanding a lakh plus in exchange of blessings and the cost of a single wedding is going through the roof. Do you agree? Please feel free to add to this list. More the merrier!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sorting Out Sid - Beer and Blogger Contest

Multifaceted mommy-of-three cum author cum many things Yashodhara Lal has penned another laugh riot titled Sorting Out Sid. As soon as I heard about this interesting SOS contest here, I got down to writing this post. The selected winners get an invite to a special luncheon that also gives a chance to hobnob with fellow bloggers. Yay! 

Currently available on Flipkart, this book promises a hilarious ride. So, here’s my entry to the contest about a funny incident related to beer. Let’s get started. Hic Hic Hurray!

Sorting Out Sid reminds me of the time when my parents were busy Sorting Out Shiv! Shivam, my younger brother is fondly called Shiv in the family. Well, my bro’s tryst with beer happened earlier than my parents had envisioned. It was a momentous day as he had just cut a chocolate cake, blowing away 16 candles. The house was brimming with noisy aunts, clamoring kids and his few gawky school friends. Dad raised a toast to his son’s clean teens – a record of sorts even in those days.

The party wrapped up and his friends (four boys) slept over. It was assumed that the boys would go hungry in few hours, so my parents ensured that the stock of cola cans and crisps get replenished. Mum kissed him goodnight and promised prompt action in case they needed anything anytime.

Dawn broke, the doorbell chimed and phone-calls buzzed but the boys slept blissfully through the morning mayhem. Dad tiptoed softly and peeped in his room. The youngsters were scattered like Lego links – their faces tranquil, limbs hanging loose. Before he could turn his back, the stillness in the room was suddenly marred by a sharp clinking sound. It turned out that Malti, the house help was sweeping the room and had been extra zealous that day. Before dad could display his discomfort, another unfamiliar clink sound echoed in the room. It sounded like a minor collision. Soon, Malti’s efforts of sweeping under the bed gave answers to those beery beery curious questions.

A bottle rolled out. An empty beer bottle. Dad gave that solve-this-puzzle-like-right-now look to Malti. She read the cue and brandished her broom again. Another masterstroke and rolled out a few more. And more. There were nine in all. 650 ml each. Extra strong lager. Emptied, left to lounge around under the bed. It was hard to tell which expression was priceless. Malti’s Eureka moment or dad’s disbelief!

Let me not bore you with rip-roaring details of what ensued that morning. But recently, more than a decade later, my bro Shiv got married. His romance with beer is still on whereas his wifey loves soups. I got a theme-based cake made for them. An ode to their beery crazy personalities. Here's a glimpse.

A couple in love with their loves – beer and soup!

Hope this story made you smile and gave you that déjà vu moment. Now I hope the judges smile too!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Discovering Evernote at Bloggers’ Meet in Delhi

I am one of those clumsy individuals who stuff receipts, business cards and other hard bits of information in the nooks and crannies of an oversized bag. I carry a huge tote not because it is the hottest trend around, but simply because it’s roomy enough to lodge all of my life’s daily dealings.

So while I tried to unclog my mind and de-clutter my handbag as frequently as possible, I was yet to stumble upon a comprehensive digital feature that would simplify the mess I call "life". Falling onto basic inbuilt phone features like tasks, reminders and alarms, my existence was still a mish mash of confusion - till I received this call to attend a bloggers’ meet by Evernote. Held in Khan Market’s quaint cafe Smoke House Deli on a nippy evening – the meet was an informal chat session with the vivacious team representing Evernote and fellow bloggers.

The venue 

Evernote is a super cool app compatible with web, mobile and tablet, that downloads with a promise to “make it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life.” A chance meeting with the very affable Troy Malone, GM, South Asia, Evernote, gave me a wonderful insight into this free app that is now making my life so easy peasy. I am someone who reads my news online, but funnily scrawls all important notes in a dog-eared writing pad. Changing THAT peculiar habit was no mean feat.

The adorable Elephant brand logo

Embedded with unique features, Evernote offers something for everyone. The compulsive traveller in me particularly likes the Evernote Web Clipper which can be used to clip websites and maps of potential picnic locations. Just jot down your impressions using this app on phone and later you’ll be able to find the exact location as your note will be automatically geo-tagged. Great feature if you like meticulous planning.

I realized that I could design all my trips in a more organized way. I could just jot down information in Evernote Notebooks, use tags and maintain Notebook Stacks. I could even share my scribbles with my partner or travel mates for better coordination. I could just make a packing list with whatever free time I had on my hand and set reminders. By saving everything that you see online (including links, images and text), one can push hard-to-remember metadata in their Evernote account. The account can be accessed anywhere from any device – be it a computer, mobile phone or a tablet.

I was particularly elated to know that there’s so much I could do with these Notebooks. From immortalizing my baby’s artwork to clicking and saving a picture of THAT Michael Kors messenger bag in my ‘Next Hot Buy’ list – this app lets me now focus, remember and treasure my life. The OCR of image notes is another shining star of this app that let you scan words from a snapped photo saved in Evernote. Yes, you can now snap and save menu cards, adverts, thoughtful notes and lots more in your device and savour information later by just remembering basic keywords associated with the note. If you snap and save business cards – all the information including contacts numbers of the individual gets saved in your device.

I wish I had known about this app a few months earlier. I nearly burnt myself out planning for my brother’s wedding recently. My brain struggled everyday with the tentwalla, mehendiwalaa, bandwalla, caterer, tailor, make-up artists and a few hundred people associated with the big fat Indian wedding.

Really, it’s time to reorganize the nuts and bolts of my life, take a break and breathe easy!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

London: A riot of colours!

London is a truly cosmopolitan global centre where being glamorous is normal, clubbing an institution and French bistros a way of life. Its iconic buildings and grand architecture in muted sandstone stand majestic and yet play a dramatic contrast to the colour fest on the streets.

Here are a few pictures from the trip. Scroll below and you will find that most of them are taken from a popular flea market called the Camden Town.
The London Eye

River Thames

Boots galore

One in every shade!


Staple breakfast

Butterfly motif - the global trend these days

National flag on lingerie - tawdry and offensive 

Theatre and red buses - The two souls of London

Desi Janpath

Grand architecture


Pretty flower arrangements found in every nook and cranny - What a visual feast!