One-track mind

Mornings are usually jovial in our house. Whilst devouring my red berry muesli and masala tea, the Stud of the House and I engage in silly antics such as deciphering the relevance and meanings of our previous night’s dreams, and basically pepping up for the day’s tasks ahead, which includes what we should take as packed lunch and what we should have for dinner.

I know that I have basically gone AWOL over the past few weeks. So many unexpected turn of events have taken place since mid April and I am just beginning to come to grips with these. One of these being the sad demise of my dazzling grandmother. (I will write a post in ode to her soon.)

I find that I am in a constant self-battle to keep myself occupied and busy. The age-old saying on everyone’s lips goes ‘there is always so much to do but so little time to do it’. Well, in my case, there is always so much I want to do and find so little time to do it. I’ve been like this as far as I can remember. It is probably inborn. There is some inert force that keeps me pushing myself to new limits and, whilst this is great and a good characteristic to have as an ego booster, it leaves me beyond exhausted by the end of the day. Heck, who am I kidding? I wake up exhausted the next day. Hence, the jovial mornings we share to try and boost some energy in to the day.

I am what you can call, a jack of all trades, but really a master of none. I love to explore all opportunities and this can be my downfall in such that when several opportunities arise together, I will explore them all at once. I used to get burdened with thoughts of not being able to fully commit to any one cause and of always being on a jittery edge. Lately, I’ve realised that since we have no control of how life turns out to be, perhaps it is not such a bad thing trying to make the most of every opportunity. Life is not about succeeding at all times. It is also about having the courage to try and to broaden experiences. It is about seeing the potential in you and trying to realise it as much as possible. I prefer this ‘style’ of living to the monochrome version.

In the end, it is all about leaving a legacy behind.

This particular morning whilst having a lightbulb moment, I eloquently summarised my situation. (Indulge me, will you?)

I have a one-track mind…and this can aptly be described as ‘always sidetracked’.

Identity crisis

Our TV viewing at home consists of flicking between Sky Sports channels, Food Network channels, Music channels and Indian channels. This is pretty much it. Oh and for the ad hoc comedy moments of the ever endearing ‘Friends’ episodes. Other than these, we don’t use our Sky package to its maximum capacity. Oh, just to point out to clear misconceptions, I watch Indian channels not for the slow and overly dramatised serials that creepily make you want to dig a hole and bury yourself. For they are that mundane and suck the life out of you. I watch for some good Bollywood movies and educational series such as the Mahabharat and Ramayan.

I’m a die hard fan of Food channels and follow the latest chefs on the scene. I have been an avid supporter of MasterChef Uk, and watched a few various other versions in Australia. A couple of months ago, we got hooked to MasterChef India, Season 4. Purely because this was the very first fully vegetarian competition of its kind.

Several episodes in and we soon realised how melodramatic this was, akin to all other Indian soaps and series. The participants were as eager as all the usual ones you watch across the continents. However, the whole MasterChef India show has a different kind of excitement associated with it. The first episode of each week was seldom about food and cooking, and more about the silly antics by both judges and participants. The standard of cooking also did not appear to be as expected when compared with the UK counterpart. This could purely be because I am a vegetarian and since I have no ounce of knowledge on how to cook non-veg food, roasting a whole chicken would seem more complicated than making ‘kheer’. Or, it simply could be that it was not up to par. I am more inclined to believe the latter as one of the finalists, Ashish, plated a dish equivalent to the standards of the first round as his finale dish of the show. Thankfully he was suitably eliminated.

Looking past the dramatics of the show, we followed the contestants on their journey to be crowned the 4th MasterChef in India. Some of the dishes produced were inspiring and also looked pleasing to the eye. Others faltered. However, since we were not there to taste, who are we to judge really.

The weeks sped by and fast forward to Saturday just gone, the penultimate episode aired. This is where it all started to crumble. The episode was about the 4 remaining contestants and they had to cook their deciding dish to see which 3 will be the final 3. The bizarre fact was that the public were going to vote as to who they wanted to be crowned the next Indian MasterChef. This may seem norm to some, but to me, without having tasted any of the food, how are we supposed to vote as to who is deemed perfect for the position? Last I checked, this was not a popularity contest.

Voting began and the winner was to be announced on Sunday. However, in true Indian style, the winner will not be announced by a simple statement from the judges. There was a whole evening planned of what I can only describe as tasteless entertainment. It began with the 3 finalists prancing on stage with their version of Bollywood dancing. Because this is a cooking competition finale, and dance is a main part of the popularity show. Or so she says, whilst trying to make sense of this turn of events. This was followed by various plugs for other reality Tv shows such as Nach Baliye (a dance show!) and promoting a soon-to-be-released Bollywood film. Why? Why you may ask.

Have you ever noticed in India how they love their sponsorships and advertising? For example, whilst the recent Cricket World Cup was taking place in Australia, we were in India at that time. You can of course imagine the Indian team being sponsored, as well as the ads you watch/listen to in between breaks on television or radio. However, sponsorship goes beyond that. When the second team is batting, you swiftly get to hear every so often ‘This run chase is sponsored by Suzuki Maruti’. When a batsman hits a 4 or the ultimate 6, ‘This 4 (or 6) was sponsored by BSNL (or something like that!)’ – a broadband company. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is sponsored. Even the cement used to form buildings. It will have an ad of its own with an A list celebrity endorsing it.

This explains the sponsored entertainment for a finale cooking show. It just makes the whole thing tacky. As explained, in our house, we are very opinionated and subjective with our choice of television. I do not want to tune in to a cookery show only to see a finale that involves everything else other than food. I am all for culture and types of expectations each country has. But there is a fine line between tasteful and keeping in theme with the subject versus drowning in cultural expectations.

It is safe to say that this was our first and last experience of MasterChef India.

Ilk

Noida (short for the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority), is located in Uttar Pradesh at the fringes of Delhi. Compared with Mumbai, Delhi has a vibe and energy of its own. Everything appears to be more methodical, cleaner, less populated and more urban. Mumbai has an unmatched energy that wraps around you like a hurricane. You get sucked in to it and after a while, it can be exhausting. Delhi’s energy is different. It can be compared to London, whereby even though life is on a constant move and rush, the pace can be altered to suit your needs.

Noida is where the brand ‘Ilk’ resides. Design duo Shikha and Vinita formed Ilk in 2011. Ilk, meaning clan, is rooted to the culture and tradition of its belonging. The label’s forte in handmade textures adds a novel, youthful and detailed aesthetic to the garments.

Vinita & Shikha - Designer duo of Ilk
Vinita & Shikha – Designer duo of Ilk

The Ilk studio was a delight to visit. Known for their unique ability to mix textures and drapes, it was wonderful to explore their latest collection on the racks, fresh off the ramp. Filled with an array of western apparels – as well as saris and kalidars – in pastels, aquas, corals and some pops of colour, the racks provided us with an insight into the labour of work that goes in to each garment.

Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list.
Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list

Their workshop is also located on the same floor as their office and studio. Here, we were lucky to see their new collection ‘Love me not’ in the making. Floral embellishments and appliqués, beads and quirky cuts formed the basis of this collection. Various garments were taking shape before us, with embroidery, stitching and cutting all happening at different stages of the process.

Texture and fun silhouettes are the label’s forte, making each piece sit firmly on your wish list.

IMG_7413 (1)A studio and workshop visit always heightens my excitement of working with that label. It gives you an access into the design world, how garments are actually produced and the different stages each goes through before the finished product that we usually get to see in a shop. It also gives an insight to the incredible talent of the designer as well as the craftsmen executing their designs. It is with gratitude to the designer and the craftsman that we can drape and adorn ourselves with such pieces.

Celebrity conundrums

Over the years, I have affectionately stared at my favourite celebrities, bumped in to some on prominent streets in London and hotels, smiled awkwardly at others only to receive disgruntled stares and observed others during Fashion Week. These celebrities live a privileged life, mainly a result of hard work or family ties. Either way, life looks good.

Here, I’ve come up with pros and cons to what I believe surrounds a celebrity and their lifestyle.

Let me first define celebrity status using the following ‘Status Class Chart’ (for the record – these are strictly my own views and my own opinions; feel free to share if you agree):

Class A – Superstar;

Class B – Mediocre;

Class C – Only known because of their next-of-kin relationship to some Class A celebrity;

Class D – Those who are self-proclaimed, most likely through reality TV.

I’m not just talking about the monetary value that a celebrity has because that is all relative. Obviously if you are a celebrity, you are generally more well off than the rest of us. But it’s all relative.

Now, we all know and have always read about the perks of being a celebrity. I’ll list a few below:

  • Worldwide recognition – everyone knows you (well at least a handful do, depending on which celebrity class you belong to).
  • Endorsements – you get to promote worthy causes, and some not-so-worthy causes, but does the cause really matter when you get a fat cheque at the end of it?
  • Freebies, such as fancy clothes, handbags or perhaps a ride on a chartered plane.
  • Large social media following (this is regardless of what celebrity class you fall into, so a huge bonus in the celebrity world).
  • Access to the hottest tickets in town.
  • Reservations at top restaurants that normal individuals can only obtain once waiting patiently for 3 months on the advance booking list (although, I have heard that this is not always the case, and some A class celebrity’s wife rocked up at a top Mumbai restaurant expecting a table only to be turned away).
  • You get to name your child after your favourite fruit, or city, or something that sounds remotely posh but borders on non-existent in the dictionary, without any other family member battling an eyelid.
  • It always seems obvious to the rest of the world how in control you are and the power you possess.

Now for the cons:

  • You can never really slurp your spaghetti for fear of your face being splattered across the next morning’s papers.
  • You could never wear your most comfy track bottoms and hoodie when flying long haul. Or carry your hot water bottle on to the flight.
  • The fear of being relegated down the Status Class Chart can result in mental disorder at some stage. Very few celebrities live in no fear and I applaud those; however, all the ones I have seen always weirdly have an entourage of security that rivals Presidents.
  • God help anyone who does not recognise a celebrity when they are not trying to be inconspicuous. This could become a very embarrassing situation – cause uproar or silently turn away?
  • Once your status is established, if you try to do something out of your realm and it fails, there is no forgiveness or no turning back. The world is cruel. And just like that, you are off the Status Class Chart.

The deal breaker for me – you never get to sit in the front driver’s seat (of YOUR own car, might I add) and you never get to drive yourself, or your partner or your kids. This is a major bummer in my view as I cherish the moments I am driving myself. This is what REAL CONTROL is about.

Ka/Sha – aiming to create heirlooms

We made a day trip to Pune. The 3 hour journey flew by quickly. Mostly because our driver drove like a maniac, and having sat at the back of the Innova (a brand by Toyota popular in India), I had this disturbing feeling that some of my internal organs felt slightly displaced.

Anyway, the journey was worth it to meet the über quirky and peppy designer, Karishma Shahani Khan, whose personality completely reflects in her label Ka/Sha. As S9 Muses, we have been curating this label ever since we launched and had our first pop-up shop in January 2014.

To give you an insight into her label, aiming to create heirlooms, Karishma’s ethos matches our own, focusing on giving each garment its own uniqueness, either through storytelling, upcycling, adding a wondrous weave or an atypical stitch, and as multi-coloured and diverse in its material and techniques. There is evidence of love in details; love for choice. With the use of different exquisite Indian crafts, she transforms an unsuspecting everyday textile into a modern, experimental garment that is a delight to wear. Completely out of the box, yet totally accessible. For those who dare to dream.

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Every bit of garment counts. Once scraps, now upcycled.

As soon as we reached Pune, we met with Karishma and her team and devoured a perfect lunch of chaats and pani puris all downed with ‘chaas’ (or buttermilk). We then headed to her studio where we saw her beautiful collection in the making. Known for her layering, each look in her lookbook consists of numerous items of clothing, displaying a seemingly complicated yet purposely compiled collection.

Embroidery
Embroidery
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Karishma caught off-guard 🙂

Being a part of the audience at her Lakmé Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk as well as her recent 2015 catwalk collection (titled ‘Neel’), I can safely say that her catwalks deliver an experience in itself. Layers upon layers of colour, prints, separates and spot-on foot-tapping music accompanying the models down the ramp make for a very excited stare. I was awestruck, almost childlike, with her collection ‘Neel’ and have voiced my opinion already here. I cannot wait to receive my new sari ordered from her latest collection.

(PS – If you wish to come have a look or purchase a sari from Ka/Sha, please get in touch and we can send you details of our next pop-up shop!)

I lost my tea

So for the last 2 weeks I have been busy in a productive way, whilst having the time of my life meandering my way around Mumbai and Delhi, attending Lakmé Fashion Week, visiting designers at their studios and basically eating at every opportunity I got. This running around and ever need to feed my mouth consumes a lot of my energy, which only the simple act of having good brewed tea can provide. In simple terms, I run on tea.

My daily routine consists of having a mug of masala ‘chai’ (or tea for those unaccustomed to the term) with my breakfast, followed by another cup of any other flavour after dinner. 2 cups in 1 day and I am set to go.

Masala chai originated from India (or at least one would hope!) as it is the staple drink in most Indian households. So you would expect to indulge in the best tea once in India.

Fake
Fake

However, I was extremely disappointed to receive the drink in front of me dubbed as ‘masala chai’. Every restaurant, every hotel, every shop, every (the list goes on) … we sipped on this new fad of machine-produced masala tea. In India, when I order a cup of masala tea, I automatically mean the ‘proper’, brewed and cooked-over-a-stove kinda one. Not the one where you open a packet and add hot water to. Not the one where you add water to a masala tea bag. This is India for crying out loud!

Admittedly, my morning cuppa consists of a masala tea bag. But the circumstances are different. I live in London.

I do occasionally make the authentic version over a stove, and nothing can beat the aroma or the taste.

The only place where I found the authentic masala chai was at the street vendors’ stalls, where their tea brews for hours on end to supply the demand of the working class all day long. This was the real deal.

Oh India! Why this trend to produce machine-brewed tea, when the original version is so much better and so original? In this change to provide a perhaps more universal choice, the actual authenticity has been lost. The decision to provide this fake substitute is beyond me and, on many a time, I had to resort to the option of having coffee instead.

Rant over.

Love in details

Ka/Sha by Karishma Shahani Khan presented its Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015 collection titled ‘Neel’ this afternoon as well.

This über quirky and peppy designer’s personality completely reflects in her label, with design in details and design in layering forming the basis of this collection. Beautiful embroidery coupled with ikat prints on whites and blues showcased a myriad of colours and separates.

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Shoes with matching ikat prints

Ka/Sha transforms an unsuspecting everyday textile, the sari, into a modern, experimental garment that is a delight to wear. This particular one invokes some sort of déjà vu, perhaps because is so reminds of the exquisite veil by Versace for Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress.

IMG_7187 (1) IMG_7190 (1)

My absolute favourite collection from Ka/Sha to date.

Love me not

Hit smack in the face by the Mumbai heat this morning, I, along with two friends and The Man of the House (henceforth known as The Stud of the House), arrived in India to attend the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort 2015. This is the second such fashion week that I have attended as Co-founder of S9 Muses.

The design duo Shikha and Vinita of Ilk presented their collection titled ‘Love me not’ this afternoon. Relaxed silhouettes formed the core look of the collection, with floral embellishments adding to the well-known textural elements associated with Ilk.

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Floral detail

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Very feminine in nature, yet containing the undertone of grunge that is classically associated with Ilk, the cottons, nets and gauze fabrics simultaneously added to the luxe feel of the aqua, peach, grey, black and white garments.

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Giants

This week, the eldest member from my family lineage passed away at the age of 89 years. This brought back memories the day my grandfather passed away just over 4 years ago. Time never heals any wounds; I think you simply get used to the circumstances you are in. My grandfather was big-chested, generous and, in all manners, the Godfather of the house. He stood tall, always with a straight back. The attention he commanded is the kind that legends are made of. A true giant, in every sense.

My first job was as a Production Editor for scientific journals. Through those years, I cannot explain just how useful the keyboard shortcut ‘ctrl+shift+z’ was. This is the equivalent of ‘undo’. This shortcut was so embedded in my memory and daily use, that I found myself constantly thinking of erasing, or undoing, moments in life itself. As soon as something unwanted happened, or was said, or a thought processed that I did not want to occur, I automatically thought ‘ctrl+shift+z’. Only to realise, this is not some unwanted artwork or text on my screen. It is happening in real-time, in real life. I could not undo life.

The ever procrastinator, I have toyed with the idea of what to write as my very first blog post. I’m certain that the first blog post is the most difficult for all bloggers. Cue several weeks, and late one night a few days back, just before I was drifting off to sleep, I knew what I wanted to write.

This is an ode to the heads of families, the giants. The stalwarts who form the backbones.

MY RED COAT is aptly named after my most prized possession. I’ve had this coat for over 10 years, and it is still in pristine condition. I mean, the zipper is broken, and it has lost most of its fluffiness, but it still looks good. I have yet to find a coat that I love so much to replace it. Don’t judge, but in a world full of uncertainty, it has been my comfort.