Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Resolution for 2015

So, it's the last day of 2014 and I just remembered I still haven't told you all my resolution for the new year. I have decided that in 2015, I will reignite my passion for travel and put a new life into my travel articles.

This year I wrote on and off. I did go to a lot of places, but I was either too lazy or too tired or just did not have the time to write about my trips. I have planned to block some hours every week in my schedule to fit in exciting travel posts on my travel blog. I want to bring back my passion of travel writing and also do it on the go. I have always wanted to blog while I'm on the train or in a hotel, but I only managed that once this year. I can't blog in transit because I either find the internet too slow or the touchscreen of my cellphone too small and inconvenient.

They say it's easier to keep your resolution if you have a companion nudging you towards your goal. I've screened most of the people I know, and they just don't seem to fit the bill. So, I have turned my attention towards gadgets. And I just may have found my travel companion! :-) Any guesses? Well... here it is:-


The Micromax Canvas Tab P666 with Intel Inside will be the perfect friend on all my solo trips. Thanks to its lightning fast interface, I will no longer have to wait umpteen seconds for every new article-draft to be saved. Afterall, it comes with Android Kitkat 4.4.2!

I like to look stylish for all the pictures that will find their way on my blog. Good thing, the tab has a smooth glass finish and a sleek design. Talking about pictures, I almost forgot how I love to capture all my travel-memories in pictures! The 5MP rear camera will work just fine and the 2MP front camera will get me awesome travel-selfies! And, while I take pictures, I shall also like to record a couple of videos for my new video blog on Youtube. The Canvas Tab's 1080p HD video playback and recording is just what I will need!

Every story I experience must be written. Next year, I will make sure I blog instantly to capture every moment in as much detail as I can. Writing about past trips hogs a lot of brain power and I fail to remember vital facts at times. This tablet's 3G connectivity will make sure I'm always ready to blog!

Finally, my resolution can only sustain if I have the energy to travel, write, and repeat! With my 24*7 commuting schedules, I will really need a co-traveller that can last long. Micromax Canvas Tab P666 has 4400mAh battery, 6h browsing time, 15 hours of talktime and 325 hours of standby time. Need I say more? Let's all hope I'm able to keep this resolution in 2015!

Happy New Year to all!!! :-) Keep reading and stay happy!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Jignesh Swallows his Pride

Mandira crept out of the tent she had made out of 2 umbrellas drying in the drawing room. "Papa! Papa!" The toddler scurried to her father and clung to his feet. He was early that evening, and was delighted to find his little daughter awake. He plucked her off his leg and planted a kiss on her forehead. As soon as Mandira held her dad's cheeks to kiss him, she recoiled.

Jignesh put his daughter on the sofa and examined his beard. It had become quite sharp. No wonder his only daughter refused to kiss him! But he was a proud Gujju! He would never get rid of his beard or moustache. They were symbols of power and confidence. He looked again at his daughter. Mandira was his dream. She was a blessing that brought him joy every day. And nothing mattered more than his daughter's wish.

Jignesh immediately headed to his bathroom and shaved off his beard. He let the moustache be. His wife called out to him for dinner. He sat down at the table and broke the thepla to satiate his hunger. Right then, Mandira came crawling up to him and tugged at his trousers. Jignesh lifted her with his free hand and asked, "What is it, my little girl?" Mandira immediately kissed her daddy dearest on the clean shaven cheeks and said, ""Good night, Papa!".

That night, Jignesh decided to try and get home early on a regular basis. He would wake up early if there was more work. But he would not let all the precious time fly. The precious time that he could spend with his daughter. Mandira would grow up one day and not want to spend as much time with family. She would be closer to her friends, and then to her boyfriend. It won't be long before she would want to move out. Jignesh would make the most of these years when his daughter truly had the time for him. He would make time for her.

This post is part of the #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette.

The Interview

Disclaimer: This post is not about the controversial movie of the same name. ;-)

Raj was a tall and confident young man from the graduating class of 2013. He was the captain of the varsity football team and a fairly bright student. He skimmed through his resume for the umpteenth time as he waited his turn outside the interview room.

Raj was interviewing for a boutique investment firm. He had thoroughly researched the company and prepared well for the interview. He had spent months keeping himself abreast of the current affairs in economics. He quite adored the world of finance and loved to read about new theories that were disproved by still newer ones. He looked dapper in his crisp white shirt and stainless steel cufflinks which he had borrowed from his dad only for the big interview. His dark blazer rested folded on his left forearm as he was sweating from nervousness. He checked his shoes - perfectly polished. His father had told him how a man is often judged by his shoes. If that rule was anything to go by, a glance at Raj's shoes would give the impression of his belonging to royalty.

A volunteer from a junior year finally waved at Raj. That was his cue to enter the room. As if by a miracle, Raj lost his nervousness and confidently strode in. He greeted the panel with a practised smile. Once seated, Raj fluently answered all that they had to ask him. After almost an hour, when Raj walked out of the room, he was delighted. The decision would be announced the next day, but Raj was very happy with his performance. He immediately called up his father and said, "Papa, thank you so much! I cannot believe how brilliant I was at the interview. If you hadn't convinced me to shave the goatee that I always thought was cool, I'd probably have looked like those other guys in my class who seemed kind of unprofessional. If I get this job, you get the first treat!" Raj finished his message for the answering machine.

This post is part of the #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Birthday Party

Last night, I was watching TV and I came across the latest Kinley TVC. It is about a girl who can't sleep without telling her parents the truth about her whereabouts. Take a look:-


This reminded me of how cowardly I actually am. I have lied a hundred times, and blatantly in many occasions. However, I remember a few instances when I spoke the truth, and was proud of it. I will tell you one such story from last year.

It was sometime in early September when my friend (who was also my colleague) invited me to his birthday party. As was the norm, the party would start after 11:30pm and go on till the wee hours of the next day. I must tell you now that despite being in my early 20s, I stay with my parents and am bound by their rules and curfews. I was sure my parents would never allow me to stay at any party that late.

While I finished my dinner that night, I tried to come up with good excuses to leave the house. I felt guilty and uneasy all through the otherwise delicious meal. I finally put my fork down and asked my parents to mute the TV. I told them the truth in plain words, without lying about the time I would be back. I explained to them how all of my friends usually partied that way, and that there would be plenty of girls at the birthday boy's place. I waited with my heart in my mouth to hear what my parents would have to say to all of that.

All that my dad said was, "Take the keys when you leave. Don't wake us up in the middle of the night when you are back." And then he added, "Don't drink too much. You have office tomorrow morning!" My mom piped in, "Don't wear short clothes. It's cold outside." (I almost laughed at that. It's never cold in Mumbai, least of all in September. But I knew they'd never let me out in a skirt in the dead of the night.)

I smiled in delight. My parents were not so bad afterall. They really thought it was okay for me to leave after 11:30 and get home after 2am! True to my word, I wore chinos and a top. At 11:20, the birthday boy called me to say he was waiting in the car in front of my building. We drove to another friend's penthouse apartment and waited for the others to arrive. I was a little sad at that point as my truth was turning into a lie. I was the only girl in that flat full of 5 guys. I did not knowingly lie to my folks. The guys shared a couple of beer bottles among themselves as the man of the night poured me some some wine (he knew my taste ;-) ). A few minutes later, the girls arrived with the birthday cake. I was really happy to see them (for more reasons than one). And quite pleasantly, the women outnumbered the men in the flat. I had, after all, spoken the truth to my parents! I knew I would enjoy the rest of the night in peace.


After what was a lovely night of celebration and dancing, I finally decided to leave at about 3 in the morning (or night, depending on how to look at it). The birthday boy accompanied another girl and me to our residential complex. I was quite surprised to find an auto rickshaw at that unearthly hour (especially since most autos refuse to ply in broad daylight).

When I got home, it was past 3:15, and everyone was asleep. It didn't take me long to hit the bed as I was quite happily tired myself. Next morning, after oversleeping, when I finally got to the breakfast table, my mum asked me what time I had gotten back the previous night. I was honest again, and she did not mind. And this is how I started telling my parents the truth about late night parties. They have faith in me and know that I will take care of myself. And I, on my part, know I will do what is right, and deserve the trust they have in me. In my opinion, truth works best in the long run. Your parents may be worried or angry the first time, but they will come around and understand that social spheres work differently these days, and will respect your choices. Besides, honesty brings people closer.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Luxe Café - A Site for the Elite

India is seeing a rare wave of consciousness course through the veins of its haut monde and upper middle class - that of luxury consciousness. And to give wings to this luxe awareness, Manisha Mayur Shekhar has launched The Luxe Café - a website dedicated to the pursuit of the high life.

The site has a fine collection of curated editorial pieces straight from the horse's mouth. The Luxe Café features advice from luxury experts such as Rosita Missoni and JJ Valaya. In fact, this e-platform is a JJ Valaya initiative. The hard work and experience of design specialists, writers and artists has given birth to this business-to-consumer podium. The site aims to reach not only the top tier metropolitan cities, but also tier-2 and 3 cities such as Nashik and Udaipur where fine living is on the rise.

Source: http://www.theluxecafe.com/

"Luxury must be comfortable. Otherwise, it is not luxury."
- Coco Chanel

The Luxe Café brings you vital information about the ultimate comforts that your money can buy you, and shows you how to live la dolce vita, which not even money can show you. Take for example the guide to buying your first yacht or a glimpse into a superyacht. The site has an exclusive corner for aviation and boating. Opinions and tips are sourced from industry experts only. (Check this guide to owning a business jet.) For lovers of the fast lane, there is a section for luxe cars. The Luxe Café currently has handpicked articles on the Rolls Royce, Audi and Ferrari

Source: http://www.theluxecafe.com/

Once you know how to get to a place (yacht, private jet or car), you must decide where you wish to go. To help you solve your dilemma, The Luxe Café has a tab committed to cater to your travel needs. It features destinations in both India and abroad. You may also access useful reviews of high end hotels for your vacation. From boutique hotels to luxury camping and living in houseboats - this site has something for every type of traveller.

Source: http://www.theluxecafe.com/

One cannot visit a place without being appropriately dressed for it. This is why The Luxe Café has fashion advice to suit your elegant taste. You will learn about the latest trends in haute couture. There are suggestions to dress you from feet up. Articles on jootis and wedding trousseau to watches and jewellery grace the pages of this electronic guide.

Source: http://www.theluxecafe.com/

A true purveyor of luxury never ignores her food. It must speak of her royal choices. The Luxe Café brings you wine pairing tips from sommeliers and shows you how to enjoy your bubbly. Tea, cupcakes or sushi - your taste buds will come alive at the vibrant pictures and descriptions of fine dining spreads.

Source: http://www.theluxecafe.com/

Luxury is not a summation of discrete elements. It is a holistic experience and a permanent way of life. This young online magazine guides you on home decor and real estate, and brings you stories of celebrated personalities who have been living the sweet life. This entrepreneurial venture will catch the interest of both young and mature readers who appreciate the finer things in life.

Overall, the site has a neat layout and is easily navigable.The simplistic design of its pages reflects the thought that elegance lies in economy. For readers without the luxury of time, the editor's picks make for a quick read on the right hand panel. The Luxe Café has arrived at an opportune moment. India is embracing wealth and the style that comes with such splendour. Don't forget to visit the site - http://www.theluxecafe.com/

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Forbidden Fruit

"All is fair in love and war."

We have been hearing these words since school, but how true are they? Is everything actually fair in love? I think not. Love is one of those few emotions that makes you feel a million feelings but comes with even more restrictions.

"Do not meet him after dark."

"Don't lose your virginity before marriage."

"Don't talk to that guy."

These and many other sentences are hurled at young people who sense that love is in the air. And because "love" and "lust" are uncontrollable, the society exerts all control on "sex". I wonder what business the public has in matters so private. They have unspoken (and some explicitly writ) laws on matters concerning everything - from sexual orientation to sexuality to sexual intercourse. And more often than not, expressions of love and affection are forbidden... in public and otherwise.

Our Indian people can be quite hypocritical. They wish to uphold the ancient cultures and traditions on the one hand, but condemn the same practices in the daily lives of humans. Case in point: Kamasutra - the holy grail of sex, is considered sacred and regarded as the ultimate guide to sexual exploration. However, possessing sexually explicit books and other media is frowned upon. In fact, there have been cases of wrongful detention of people in possession of adult content. Or consider the temples of Khajuraho where sex is on display in 3-D. This temple complex is on the list of World Heritage Sites. In contrast, sex is a taboo topic in most of India - especially schools. School is where sex education should begin. Unfortunately, these classes are limited to discussions on health and nutrition. It is assumed that students will practice abstinence until they are married.

Premarital sex is a tricky topic and it is very hard to take sides. It is not all black and white but has many shades of grey that one has to take into consideration before pledging one's allegiance to  or condemning sex before marriage. If you ask me, I will say at first that sex is a personal decision. If you and your partner are ready for it, by all means, go ahead and "do it"! But then, my answer will change if you tell me you are only thirteen.

I don't think it is wise to become sexually active at an age when you cannot take decisions without your friend circle's approval. Sex is good. But it is even better when you are in control of what is happening. Young couples in junior high school may not have the same level of access to contraception as adults when they have sex. They are also unprepared for the consequences. The biggest risk that sex brings is sexually transmitted diseases and infections. And only barrier-methods of contraception can protect you from those. The next big risk is that of unplanned pregnancy. And even condoms can fail you in 4% of the cases.

Physical risks apart, there are a lot of emotional and psychological changes that sexual intimacy brings with it. Age and maturity play a significant role in how much you will enjoy sex (or be scarred by it). Sex, like all other things in life, is best initiated only if it is by desire and mutual consent. If there is any element of force (societal or domestic) or fear colouring the act, it weakens the soul.

That said, if I have to talk about premarital sex in the context of consenting adults who lead independent lives, I would say it is a necessity. We don't live in times when people marry by 18 or 21. Today, we put our careers and aspirations ahead of marriage. Most of us tie the knot when we are well in our 30s. We cannot ignore the fact that sex is also a primal need and cannot be shelved until our 30s. In such cases, it becomes impractical to stay celibate until we are married. Sexual urge reaches its peak when we are in our 20s. If sex is not enjoyed in the prime of our youth, it is a wasted opportunity. Our career choices demand that we have sex before marriage. The benefits of sex far outweigh the negative consequences of social glares.

The feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine and endorphins) often keep negative emotions in check and even cure the meanest of headaches. The calories burnt in a hot session of sex is similar to that expended in an hour-long cycle-ride. And if you try different positions every time you have sex, you end up exercising all your muscle groups. Much better than hitting the gym, don't you think? Sex also increases immunity and keeps that nasty cold away. But most importantly, it helps you bond better with your partner. Sex works best when you are in love with the person you sleep with.

It is not my place to comment on or advise people on their sexual preferences and choices. Each of us has her/his own reason for choosing to wait or give in to lust. But I personally feel premarital sex is the answer to the modern lifestyle choices that we make. Marriages in India require the consent of entire families, the feeding of entire villages and loans that can take a lifetime to repay. But making love only requires two consenting lovers and some privacy.

Source: http://www.karma-yoga.net/

I love you
But I cannot sleep
With you or with my own belief. 

The neighbours
Will think ill of me.
If I lose my virginity.

So, we'll make do
With holding hands
And kissing at empty bus stands.

But how long
Will we keep this up?
Ask our beating hearts to shut up?

This hypocrisy
Must stop now!
Let's unite 'fore taking our marriage vow.

For another interesting take on love and sex, read Poonaam Uppal's True Love - A Mystical True Love Story.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Road that Should be Taken

I read the paper this morning and I learn of yet another accident on the Mumbai-Pune highway. I turn a few pages and there's an article on how an underage driver rammed his car into a tree. By the time I read the last page, I have already read several stories of innocents dying due to the recklessness of one or more people on the road. The horrific accounts of motorists and pedestrians becoming victims of road accidents has compelled me to blog about the importance of road safety.

Today, I'm going to show you a road that you should be walking on. After deep deliberation with my parents, colleagues and friends over this matter, I have made a list of measures that would improve road safety by leaps and bounds in India. Many of these are inspired by the systems in place abroad. I have hand-picked those that I have found are simple but very effective in the long run. Here they are:-

1. Separate the main roads from the footpath and cycling lanes by a "green lane" of trees or bushes


Source: http://www.jennieboisvert.com/

Other than making our roads a lot greener and cleaner, this measure will keep the cars and trucks from injuring pedestrians. I have noticed that in majority of our residential areas, we don't even have footpaths, let alone cycling lanes or trees!

2. Let pedestrians have the right of way


I'm sure most of us haven't even heard of "the right of way"! Before the driving examiners finish each driving test, they should test whether the candidate knows about the pedestrian's right of way. Pedestrians could be gullible, they may break rules, but nothing gives a motorist the justification to ride a vehicle over them. Even if somebody crosses the road on the wrong traffic signal and avoids the zebra crossing, the cars and bikes must stop to let him/her cross. No appointment/movie/exam is more important than somebody's life! Always remember that you can make another appointment, book another ticket, take the exam later... but you can never get a lost life back.

3. Automate fine-collection from speeding vehicles


Source: http://www.shutterstock.com/

This one's straight out Dubai! My parents told me about this amazing system they have there - every road has a speed-detecting camera tracking the speed and registration numbers of each vehicle. Every time a vehicle breaches the speed limit, the fine is automatically collected from the credit card linked to the registration number. It will be expensive to implement this, but if done properly, this will deter all the rash drivers.

4. Make helmets mandatory for pillion riders also


If there is any law that I find incomplete, it is the one that only requires the biker to wear the helmet. The pillion rider is often ignored. Another thing people need to understand is that helmets are for their own protection, not for keeping them cool or their complexion un-tanned or their hair untouched. "It will ruin my hairdo" is a poor excuse to not wear a helmet. At the end of the day, it's a choice between losing your hairstyle and losing your life.

5. Overtake only from the right... and only after flashing an indication


The thing that scares me most about driving is being taken over from the left. I often wonder how some drivers get their licence. It's maddening enough to drive in the city traffic, but when an errant vehicle overtakes me from the left, I know my life is not in my hands but in the hands of a greater power. It is not wrong to overtake, but there is an etiquette. One must only overtake from the right and only after using the dipper twice to indicate the wish to overtake.

6. Wear the seat belt!


Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/

This golden rule is flouted so openly that even the fines that a traffic police collects does not deter people. Tragedies can be a lot under control if we all wear our seatbelts. The seat belt holds your body so firmly that it protects you from any unexpected jerk. Many parents in India carry their toddlers and babies on their laps when they travel in a car. This can be dangerous for both the kid and the parent. Every person (even babies) should have their own seat. Car Seats come for less than your smartphone, and is more precious. It is easier to buckle up a baby when you install a car seat.

7. Ditch the phone

Source: http://www.castlepinesconnection.com/

It is a bad idea to answer calls while you drive. The call is not more important than the lives in your hands - yours, those of your passengers, and the pedestrians and other motorists. Even handsfree mode is not of much use as the interaction distracts your attention from the road. The best thing to do is to stop the car somewhere on the edge of the road and then take that call.

8. Don't drive when you are drunk


Source: http://www.ujnews.com/

Nobody is asking you not to drink. Just do not drive when you have had alcohol. Take a cab back home. You can always collect your car when you are sober the next day. Many drunk drivers forget that when they drive in an inebriated state with reduced cognitive abilities, they play not only with their lives but also the lives of many innocents who perhaps always follow road-rules. Don't you think it's unfair for a law abiding person to die when the defaulter is the sole culprit?

9. Mind the gap


Indians are so pressed for space that they scramble to occupy every tiny inch of space available on the road. On my trips abroad, I have been impressed by the high levels of law enforcement and how the drivers respect those laws. There is always at least 3 feet gap between two vehicles. In India, I always feel claustrophobic when I see cars and autos fill every little gap around me. The fear aggravates when this happens on a slope. Not leaving 3 feet gap can dent the car waiting behind as there is always a lag in the transition between brake and accelerator, and this makes the vehicles slide backward.

The nine commandments above have a tenth partner - "do not honk unnecessarily". At times, Indian drivers honk more than they drive. Noise pollution apart, this incessant and mindless honking can actually intimidate people behind the wheel and cause them to make driving mistakes.

Source: https://www.nissan.in/innovation/NSDF.html

I hope the news I read will gradually change. I want to hear more stories of success, not sorrow. I recently read about the Nissan Safety Driving Forum. This is a wonderful initiative by Nissan to change the mindset of the masses. Since 2012, NSDF has been covering different cities across India and promoting safety driving. They conduct very immersive safety drives through interactive sessions, car crash simulations and even a 360 degree turn over! Don't miss their sessions in Kochi this December!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

How I Rose To The Occasion

I met a friend from school last evening, and she told me how amazed she was at all the things I've been doing lately. Her compliment made me reflect on my past, and I realized how far I've come today.

I used to be a bookworm who finished her homework or read novels during the sports period. I was terrible at running. To add to that, I had asthmatic bronchitis which did not allow me to do any strenuous activity for more than a few seconds. In fact, I would have to rest for some time after climbing a flight of stairs. I would be breathless after just a few metres of running. Such was my physical stamina and respiratory health!

Fast forward to 2014. Today, I'm one of the fastest women in my office and amongst my friend circles. I always keep an eye out for any long distance running event in my city. When I start, I hit the ground running... and finish with a sprint! This transformation did not happen by a miracle. I fought my fears and geared up to face the biggest thing that had always tormented me!

When I was in school, I was literally scared of asthma. I had had horrible sleepless nights when I would sit crouched and try to breath with a lot of difficulty. The inhaler was my 24*7 companion. I would shudder at the images of marathoners striding across tarred roads. But I told myself one day, "I have to conquer this disease!"

When I reached 12th class, I started walking daily in the mornings. That served my lungs very well. The fresh oxygen of the mornings was free of vehicle exhaust. I realized I actually loved brisk walking! In a few months, I would break into a run after a few miles of walking. When other walkers at the park asked me why I ran, I'd tell them I was preparing for a marathon. I never actually registered for any marathon. But deep down in my heart, I knew I would someday.

I ran my first long distance run at Pinkathon 2013. I only ran 3k which can hardly be called long distance. But that was the first step. There was no looking back! I gradually ran 7k, then 10k and 10.5k. You will be startled to learn that I am writing this post right after returning from a 10k run at the Pinkathon 2014. I have run in winters and also in the summer when the sun was burning my back. I have run on flat, tarred roads, and also in the middle of a forest with rocks and mud for a road. I have run with the rain pouring down on me and with dogs chasing after me. And from 2015, I will be running half marathons for the first time in my life!


My journey will never be over. My goals keep increasing as I reach each of the ones I've set for me. I dream of running the full marathon, then ultra marathons, and perhaps a 100k run someday. I also yearn to participate in triathlons - the ultimate test of a complete athlete! It's okay to be scared. It's okay to have fears. But it's not okay to give up. For only when we try do we taste success! Let's draw some inspiration from these three adventure enthusiasts in this video:-


Friday, 12 December 2014

Hygiene Should be in Our Genes

Charity begins at home. So do many other things. Good sanitary practices and hygiene are a couple of those. I don't want to sound like a school teacher giving her kids a long and boring lecture, so I will tell you a story instead. Are you ready?

This is the story of Shammi. Shammi is a college going boy who has his exams in a couple of weeks. He lives in a shanty with thirty other families, but they all have just one toilet in their locality. To avoid being late to his classes, Shammi usually decides to defecate and urinate at the nearby dumpyard. "This is a dumpyard and all of my waste will be treated or decomposed anyway!" he thinks to himself. Some flies buzz about Shammi as he does his business. But Shammi decides to ignore those as he imagines he is probably immune now that he is nineteen.

He leaves for his college on a local train. As he stands near the door to avoid the smelly armpits of the men inside the coach, he witnesses scores of people defecating out in the open along the railway tracks. Shammi can't help but wonder which smell is worse. He has no escape from his predicament until he reaches his station. When he walks towards his college, he sees again a string of kids squatting on the service road (which has now become an open toilet). Shammi's days are so tiring that the stench of poor sanitation magnifies it tenfolds. He sulks when he gets back home. His mother lovingly strokes his hair and shrieks in alarm, "Son, you are burning! Let me get the thermometer."

Now, we can only hope Shammi has not caught something terrible, such as malaria or dengue. What does this story tell us? And more importantly, how many of us can identify with the protagonist?  Don't we all see poor hygiene when we commute across the city? What do you do then? Do you only retch at the sight and click your tongue at the sorry state of affairs? Or do you actually put your foot forward and do something about this situation?

I, for one, cannot be a silent spectator or a fierce commentator who refuses to lift a finger otherwise. So, earlier this year, I joined hands with Milaap to fundraise for building toilets across rural Tamil Nadu. My first campaign (https://milaap.org/campaigns/ToiletsForTamilNadu) received a good amount of support from my friends and colleagues, and we were able to cross the fundraising goal well before the deadline. I did not just create a page and forget about it. I would actively ping and persuade people to loosen their purse-strings a little to contribute to my cause. To raise awareness, I participated in the Mumbai Monsoon Marathon and ran in the 10.5k category.

The experience was so rewarding that I decided to fundraise for my birthday (https://milaap.org/campaigns/CleanWaterForTamilNadu) also! My birthday is over, but my spirit isn't. I continue to run and raise awareness of the need for safe sanitation, especially for women. And I am delighted to see so many leaders and brands take this issue seriously. Dettol's Banega Swachh India initiative makes me very happy for the way it is tackling the cause (of hygiene) across India. The campaign aims to build toilets in areas with poor sanitation, and it is taking on one town at a time. The publicity around handfies and washing hands is another interesting way to make cleanliness a "cool" thing!

Cool quotient apart, India is in dire need of proper sanitation. Not only for public health, but also for public "wealth"! Lack of safe sanitation can be economically disastrous for our country. The statistics below indicate that India risks losing upwards of $50 billion if it fails to improve the sanitary health and practices of its people.

Source: http://www.fastcoexist.com/

Honestly, we shouldn't need a genie to tell us how important hygiene is. It should be in our genes! Come, let's wash our hands off health and economic troubles as we promote this cause across villages, towns and cities!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Let Us End Classroom Hunger!

You are probably reading this as you munch on your ninth snack for the day. Have you ever given a thought to our not-so-fortunate brethren who go without 3 basic meals on a daily basis? The last time I checked the official stats, I found out that about 60% of India is below the poverty line. And may I remind you how low the poverty line is?

It is heartening to see what Akshay Patra and Blogadda are doing together. They have joined hands to feed as many kids for a year as we blog! So, I'm going to put in my blogpost tonight and pray this article feeds a young soul for the rest of her/his life.


Not all of us may be in a position to contribute financially, but there are many other ways to ensure every kid goes to bed on a full stomach. Here are my ideas:-

  1. If you have excess food that you know nobody has the capacity to eat, share it with school kids. You can be a tiffin-Santa and cater to lesser privileged children who do not bring their own meal at school.
  2. Contribute to midday meal programs. You can't always sit back and complain about the poor nutrition that the subsidized school-meals sometimes provide. Step out and help the authorities plan a wholesome meal. Contribute towards a portion of the meal.
  3. When you go out to picnic, share your food with those little, hungry children who only get food if their parents manage to make enough money for the day.

Food is a major expense for daily-wage earners. And in India, we are unfortunate to have the highest inflation in dietary consumables. This makes it very difficult for many to afford their daily bread (or roti?), even for their kids.

Food is also an important reason why many villagers send their kids (especially daughters) to schools. They know their children will get atleast one good meal a day, regardless of the knowedge they gain there. A full stomach also ensures the kids are alert at school. This automatically improves the literacy rate of the country and brings down cases of school dropouts.

This video below shows what a child should not have to go through for food. Let our kids be kids. Let us feed their hunger!


I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Stubble Trouble

This is the story of my boyfriend. To preserve his privacy (I doubt we can do that now :-P ), let's call him HairyHunk. HairyHunk was a very jolly man. He would hum as he went about his work through the day. He was quite a hardworking fellow! He would stay till late at work and grab quite a lot of awards for his intelligence. He was also a fine cook! He would whip up pancakes and pakoras with ease. He was quite the go-to person for his friends, and they always crashed at his place to recover from hangovers and breakups. His talents knew no bounds - he could paint like Picasso, sing like Stevie Wonder, and dance like Deva (Prabhu Deva). But his girlfriend was still not impressed.

Picture Courtesy

HairyHunk wondered where he went wrong. He would sing mellifluous melodies, dance her to dinners, and bake her delicious delicacies. But his girlfriend wouldn't budge. And then, one fine day, when we was checking himself in the mirror, he admired his manly beard and smoothened his maharaja-moustache. He remembered suddenly that his girlfriend had once mentioned - "Oww! Your pointy beard! It's pricking my soft cheeks." HairyHunk then thought, 

"Oh! So, that is why she never kisses me,
But licks the curry off her dish;
She twirls to Latin music,
But gives my face a miss.

She adores all of my paintings,
But never puts her hand on my cheeks;
She taps her feet to my music,
But hasn't stayed over for weeks!

Picture Courtesy

As HairyHunk stood there admiring his facial hair one last time, he decided it was time to bite the bullet and took his shaving foam out. He squirted some on his shaving brush and lathered it on his chin.

He took out his shiny new razor -
Gillette Mach 3,
And got down to business till
His face was hair-free.

He patted some aftershave lotion
After he had rinsed his face.
He looked at his reflection in wonder -
He now had so much more grace!

Picture Courtesy

HairyHunk was hairy no more,
But only a hunk from now!
He took his girlfriend on a date,
And all she said was "WOW!!!"

She immediately grabbed him by the face
And smooched him in the lift.
He could not contain his joy further.
He had finally received his gift!


This post is part of the #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette.

I now nominate my friends Purujeet and Amrita to take the #WillYouShave challenge and blog about their experiences.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Raise Your Voice!

The Swach Bharat campaign is trending all across India. The latest entrant to this initiative is the #AbMontuBolega drive by Strepsils. It is heartening to see so many brands come together to clean up all the filth in our country. But the big brands cannot do this on their own. They need us! They need the voice of the common man. They need action at the grassroot level before directives and provisions of the law can do much about it.

Strepsils has talked about a very crucial point while launching their campaign. We, the citizens of India - a country that produces far more garbage than it can dispose, must take it upon ourselves to speak up when we see anyone littering. We are quick to lash out at politicians who pose with a broom (and pre-arranged garbage, might I add?) to show their support for a clean India. But do we ever reprimand our friends for throwing chewing-gum wrappers on the roadside? Do we stop kids on the footpath from defecating in the open instead of finding them a toilet? Do we check ourselves before we chuck that bus ticket out of the window?

#AbMontuBolega urges us to speak up about cleanliness and other important issues, both physically and virtually. We must share our views on various social media platforms to garner collective help when we alone cannot bring about the change we strive for. When it comes to big things like getting an MLA or your Chief Minister or Governor to enforce a law, you cannot keep quiet and hope somebody else will persuade them. Take charge! Speak up! Get your followers and friends to back your cause, and the government authorities out there will heed you.

Here is what I am doing to make India slightly cleaner and safer for all - earlier this year, sometime in May, I started a campaign to raise money for women in rural India to help them build toilets in their homes. I was fundraising by running 10.55 kilometers at the Mumbai Monsoon Marathon. The terrain was very difficult and the weather highly humid. But I was happy to have raised more than my fundraising goal of forty thousand rupees.

I did not stop at that. Right after that campaign was over, I started another one. And this time, I will be running a half marathon to raise even more than I did last time. You don't have to do stuff like running twenty one kilometers. But you can talk to people about not dumping their garbage wherever they feel like. You can ask people to separate their organic and inorganic waste. You can be a champion for recycling! Glass, paper, plastic, metal - so many things can be recycled if we take some effort. Reusing still remains the best technique. There's nothing better than to refill your empty plastic and glass jars, reuse those old tiffin boxes to store your jewellery, or use your old tee shirt as a wash cloth.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and RASE YOUR VOICE against littering and wastage. SPEAK UP for cleanliness!

Monday, 24 November 2014

FatCat - The Fraudulent Gaming Company

This post has been edited in light of the recent discovery that FatCat is a fraudulent gaming company.

In late November, 2014, they launched a campaign to get bloggers to write about their mobile gaming apps. They have been running a fundraising campaign on FundedByMe.

They initially promised us shares worth 100 Euros for our blogposts. They even collected our bank account details and national ID numbers. To start with, they issued us online share certificates in PDF form which technically holds no value. We were told that we would be able to encash these shares in June 2015. But after months of waiting and getting no response from them, they finally wrote to a few bloggers asking them to courier certain documents to a faraway address. The cost of physically couriering the documents defeats the purpose of redeeming the shares. Moreover, when they have been unsuccessful in furnishing any physical document, what prompts them to seek physical copies from us?

All of us bloggers feel completely cheated, and have taken it upon us to shame FatCat. This shady company has now planned to launch in South America also! People, beware!

Fat Cat Gaming Contact Info
---------------------------
Twitter | Facebook  
Sulim Malook+44 (0) 7752 109 248
+44(0) 207-253-8653
sulim@fatcatgaming.com Linkedin

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My Shopping Experience on Jabong

It all started when my mum admonished us for finishing off her herbal products. She was cross at me and my sister for using up all of her neem face mask in a couple of months without letting her have a chance to even sample it. I decided to make amends by buying my mother a new face mask.

But I had no time to go to the supermarket and browse through their aisles. Office and creative pursuits had left me with nothing more than a few minutes for any kind of shopping. That is when I remembered the recent Jabong.com advertisement. While on my coffee break, I quickly checked out the website to see if it could be of any help to me.


First Impression


The site looks pretty neat at first glance. It asks you to choose between "Shop Women" and "Shop Men" to give you relevant results. There's also a little box at the bottom right corner to save your items. I suggest you sign up for a smoother experience on Jabong.


Signing In


You can either login separately or use your Facebook or Google account. Jabong has seamless sign-on integrity with FB & Google. They instantly emailed me a couple of discount vouchers after I signed in. These vouchers have very short validity, so plan your shopping accordingly. There are some interesting discounts on the mobile app too (available on the Google Play Store). I got a Uber credit, but I can't use that as I already have the app installed on my phone (first-time discounts are of no use to patrons).


Browsing


Jabong.com has fashion and lifestyle products for women, men and kids. They also have special collections for your home and for sporty people. Don't forget to browse through their premium range. They have some really fine stuff! You can also browse by brands. Although I was supposed to buy a skin care product, I was tempted to look through the multifarious items available for women - clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery and accessories. I also found out that Alia Bhatt has launched her collection for Jabong! If you love the big names, you will be pleased to know that some international brands are available exclusively on this site. Here are a few I found:-

  1. Aldo
  2. Tommy Hilfiger
  3. New Look
  4. CK Jeans



Shopping


Once I focussed my search on the face pack, I looked through the Skin Care category. For cosmetics, Jabong lets you filter your search by your price-range and choice of brand. I was looking for something absolutely natural and free of chemicals. I quickly found something I knew I would like! :-)


Checking Out


Closing your order is a breeze! You can pay by cards (credit /debit), cash (on delivery) or e-gift voucher. Unfortunately, they accept only one eGV for a transaction. :-( I hope they increase the number. The tracking mechanism for your order is pretty neat. You know exactly when your item will arrive.


Delivery


I had ordered a relatively small pack of skin care items, but they told me it would be 4 days before my order was shipped. It would take another 2 days to reach me. I was slightly upset by the long wait. I was later informed (after my package was shipped) that my order would take longer to actually reach me. I don't know if GoJavas should be blamed for this, but I wasn't happy with the unreasonably long time this was taking. I usually receive packages from far flung areas in 2-3 days. The only good thing Jabong did was keeping me informed. That was reassuring.


Packaging


I finally received my parcel yesterday in the evening. I was very happy to ultimately receive my order after 9 days of waiting. And boy, did I love the packing! ;-) This may be bad for the environment, but all of that bubble-wrap and cardboard sure kept my plastic containers safe. :-P


Product Quality


I give Jabong full marks for their water-tight packing. They also deserve praise for stocking very high quality stuff. I ordered a skin care pack from Aura Vedic, and even though this is the first time I'm using this brand, I'm a fan now! All 3 of the items that arrived (2 face masks and a face cream) are organic and have not been tested on animals. I love it when brands do their bit to protect the environment and fellow beings.


Verdict


All in all, my shopping experience on Jabong was very quick and satisfying, thanks to their efficient categorization and useful description of all the products. However, I'd like to see them accept more eGVs per transaction and bring the delivery time down by a few days.

Spilling the Beans


I have some inside news from Jabong. I'm only letting my loyal readers in on these secrets! Ready? There will be CRAZY DEALS and HUGE DISCOUNTS at the GOSF 2014 from 10-12 Dec. Be ready with your shopping list! You have less than 3 weeks now!

The other news is about the Jabong Online Fashion Week. You must not miss this opportunity if you are a talented fashion designer, model, make-up and hair stylist or photographer. Registrations are already open for the JOFW 2015!

Have you shopped on Jabong.com before? How was your experience? What did you buy? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Shopping from American Swan

Have you checked out the cool website of American Swan? This trendy brand has some interesting stock for shopaholics like us! I happened to surf through the site today, and the first thing I saw was DISCOUNTS!!! :-) They run special discounts every hour! Try shopping from 10 PM to midnight to get the maximum bang for your buck.

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I was so confused with all the options I had, that I decided to take some advice from the fashion experts themselves and headed to American Swan's blog - The Swan Confession. The fashion blog is regularly updated and has useful information on style trends for both women and men.

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I next headed to the swanky trend-roulette that guided me to 25 key trends of the season. The tool is very informative. It lets you choose your own style from handpicked fashion staples from the ramp.

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I personally liked the denim-trend. American Swan has numerous denim outfits, from skirts and bags to shoes and trousers. The beautiful hues of blue can make anyone fall in love with denim!

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The most elegant hair accessory I found on the site was a flower-tiara. This exquisite piece can be worn with summer dresses, hot pants and even floor length gowns. This style is truly surreal!

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Another exciting trend is the printed pant. The prints are exotic! There's graphics and kitsch, and also abstract and geometrical. The pants have their own dominant color - black-n-white, pastel and blues and greens. These patterned pants can be worn with solid tops and smart stilettos.

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Floral seems to rule the ramp this season. American Swan's collection has splendid closed-toed heels in mosaic-floral, printed dresses, embellished tops and flowery-collared blouses. They can be paired with derby hats, briefcase-handbags, pearls and bracelet-watches.

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Clutches are also ruling the roost. The superior designs make these purses a perfect arm candy for cocktail parties and business meetings alike. Depending on the colours and patterns, the clutches can be the perfect accessory to hooker-shorts and loose tops, business dresses and stilettos, and evening dresses with wedges.

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Polka dots have made a comeback this season, especially on shirts, hats, scarves and shoes. I also spotted some bags with the spots. ;-) Make sure you team these tops with solid pants and skirts. Your outfit should have no more than two polka-dotted items.

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With these fashion-tips fresh in my mind, I shopped for some winter jackets for my trip to Moscow next year. I simply LOVE the collection American Swan has! The website makes it very easy to narrow down your choices. There are filters for sizes, discounts, price-range, and even colours! You can also sort your selections on price, popularity, novelty and discount.

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They also have a nifty tool to check the size you will require. The size guide has a diagrammatic representation of what you have to measure, and the sizes are mentioned for India, EU and US.

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I picked a cute, red overcoat and proceeded to checkout. They have 14-day free and hassle free returns, premium packaging, cash on delivery option, and also express shipping. Shopping is very simple and safe (online transactions are protected by VeriSign).

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When are you planning to upgrade your wardrobe from American Swan? Are you a customer already? How has your experience been so far? Let me know in the comments below! :-)

The Magic of a Touch

It was 10 pm and the sky, a magical shade of dark. Sunaina smoothed her fuchsia evening dress and entered the grand ballroom of the Lalit hotel. Today was the first big office part she was attending. She did not have a date, and nobody to dance with. The doorman ushered her into the dark room with psychedelic lights zigzagging all around the place. She scanned the entire hall and noticed the several circles that seemed impenetrable.

Towards the door were a dozen tables, each thronged by half a dozen colleagues Sunaina sort of recognized from office. Whoever told her of the formal dress code was out of her mind! Every girl wore the skimpiest dress in her wardrobe. Some even paired their outfits with fishnet stockings. Isn't fishnet a strict no-no at work? Sunaina was flummoxed. She saw the DJ taking requests and playing all chartbusters one after another. Near the DJ's box revolved circles of the most outspoken people in office. They danced like no one was watching.

Sunaina glanced to her left where the 20 metre long bar table was installed. She wondered if she should have a drink to avoid interacting with the crowd she could not seem to manoeuvre. That is when Tanveer tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to join him for a drink. Sunaina gladly accepted the offer. She would now at least have someone to talk to, even if the noise level disallowed any sort of talking.

"White rum", Tanveer hollered across the bar to the bartender. "Small or large?" asked the barman shaking a drink for someone else's order. Tanveer looked at Sunaina, who mouthed "small". "Two large" ordered Tanveer and winked at Sunaina. Sunaina furrowed her forehead, admonishing Tanveer, but he drew closer and said, "it's only a drink!" The bartender plonked two large shots of a strange looking liquid on the table. "Bottoms up", Tanveer said to Sunaina. "Um.. ok.." Sunaina was unsure, but thought she'd take a chance anyway. She took half a sip and felt the  alcohol burning her throat. Tanveer glared at her mockingly, "C'mon! Bottoms up! That's not fair". "I'm trying!" Sunaina gulped the rest of her drink and held on to the bar table for support. The rum was smooth, but way too strong for her. She was built for milder stuff - vodka with cranberry, late harvest wines, and craft beers.

Tanveer held her hand and swiftly pulled her across to the center of the ballroom. Sunaina smiled, slightly intoxicated by the sudden rush of alcohol. She placed her left hand on his dark brown blazer and held his left hand with her right. She giggled as Tanveer gripped her palm sensuously and twirled her after every three steps. His hands snaked up the curve of her waist and rested firmly on her back. He was skillfully closing the gap between them. This was an office party. They could not kiss. But he drew his face closer to hers. Her heart skipped a beat. Tanveer brought his lips to her ear and whispered, "Nice dress!" Sunaina blushed. She was finally having a nice time at her first office party.


This short story has been written to highlight the magic of  touch. #BringBackTheTouch