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WEEKLY MAGAZINE, JANUARY 22, 2012 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times

Amy Jackson


15, 2012 E, JANUARY Times WEEKLY MAGAZIN copy of Hindustan Free with your

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T H I S

I S S U E

INDULGE EAT

The Great White Hope

LISTEN

The Talented Mr Claypool

Vintage military uniforms; nasal, slightly repressed voice: what’s not to like about Les Claypool? LIVE

Unkindest Cut VARIETY

Wedding photography gets real with everyone going candid. Here’s how!

Preeti Shetty Seema Goswami...i love ur articles. I desperately wait 4 sunday brunch. D article ‘Your body is all in ur mind’ was really delightful. Continue d gud job bcoz sundays r incomplete without Brunch!

Rishabh Suri Rajiv Makhani surely took a well-deserved vacation..:)But don’t you think that you all,at Brunch could have atleast printed some other gizmo-related stuff to quench our thirst for technology!:P

Winding roads. Exotic orchids. windswept monasteries. Snowy Himalayan peaks. There’s plenty to see – and do – in Sikkim

BRUNCH ON THE WEB

PERSONAL AGENDA

Imogen Heap

RIHANNA BARES E X C L U S IV E S L ID E S H O IT ALL, AGAIN! W!

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After posing in one of 2011’s sexiest advertising campaigns, Rihanna has once again shed her clothes for the brand Armani. She has seductively shot a series of black and white pictures in the latest lingerie line. Log on to to our website to see her sizzle!

@sonyssomar @iratrivedi in depth article in sunday Brunch, made an interesting read,kudos @harshadlagade liked all d articles of dis Sunday’s Brunch.. cover story by Ira n Seema n Yana-Advaita conversation superb! @thinqtanq “Occult” is well-written but dubious. Appears pseudo-objective advertisement for some high-profile, pseudo-scientific “healers”?

Write to brunchletters@hindustantimes.com For marketing and ad-related queries, contact suresh.tripathi@hindustantimes.com

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Can you giggle your way to a healthy life? Some doctors say you can!

The Grammy-award winning musician reveals who she’d turn gay for and what ice-cream flavour she would be

Calling All Tweeple

@rockky20 I never miss Brunch b’cos of Vir Sanghvi , Seema Goswami and Sanjoy Narayan!! i can’t skip reading them!

LOL! It’s Good For You

In Full Bloom

Dev Raj Gulati The occult obsession (Brunch, January 15) is because of lack of self belief.

@TwBirthday Happy 2nd TwBirthday! You’ve been around since 17 January 2010!

WELLNESS

TRAVEL

Avantika Cynthia Pepper a real eye opener..cover story...

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PLAY Busy bee Rajiv Makhni is attending the CES in LA, getting the best dope on all things tech. Watch out for all the big news in our next issue!

A Very Different Shot

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Santosh Dhembre Brunch is a combination of break fast and lunch and read this magazine both time also at dinner too. I appreciate some point last Ekta Kapoor interview I like and appreciate.

Which luxuries are you willing to give up during the appraisal scenario?

THE GREAT WHITE HOPE

Read the complete story online!

The whole list of your favourite firang girls ran too long to fit into the pages of our magazine. Which is why we are bringing the entire story to you online! Read about the rise of Poorna Jagannathan, Sunny Leone and Amy Jackson by logging on to the Brunch website! Now!

Have you seen our Brunch Quarterly photoshoot with Vidya Balan yet? Log on for this and an all-access pass to your favourite stories from this and previous Brunch Quarterly issues.

EDITORIAL: Poonam Saxena (Editor), Kushalrani Gulab (Deputy Editor); Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi, Mignonne Dsouza, Veenu Singh, Parul Khanna Tewari, Pranav Dixit, Yashica Dutt, Amrah Ashraf

Affordable tastes

EVER SINCE Brunch’s first copy was published, I have been reading to Vir Sanghvi’s column, Rude Food. It has been a constant companion during my Sunday breakfasts. In his earlier articles, he used to write a lot about a variety of Indian food. Being a middle class (that too a vegetarian) Indian, I wish that he would write more about Indian vegetarian fare and tell us about interesting places where one can eat it. How about some insight on some fantastic (downmarket) restaurants and dhabas, places which people like me could frequently visit? I, for one, would love to read his comments on some of our popular dhabas . — SANJEEV JAIN, Noida

Rely on yourself

AS A regular reader, I thoroughly enjoyed your cover story this week (The Occult Obsession, January 15) which featured palmistry, astrology, numerology and tarot. As a practical person I neither read my horoscope nor believe in any of these occult practices as I think that they misguide those who rely on them for their future. Sometimes, many followers get deeply involved and mess their lives further. Others visit “fake” gurus who are concerned about little else but their personal gain. Since one can’t rely on them to give cent-per-cent correct predictions, I think they are not only bogus but also a huge waste of time and money. A person must believe in oneself and instill confidence within one’s own self to live a happy and smooth life. —BHAGWAN THADANI, Mumbai

Personal request

I AM a regular reader of HT Brunch and never miss it on Sundays. However, I have one request regarding the Personal Agenda column. Only recently, the fifth season of Bigg Boss got over and I was a regular viewer. Could you please interview contestants like Mehek Chahal and Siddharth Bharadwaj in the column? I would like to know more about my favourite people. —RAJANI, via email

DESIGN: Ashutosh Sapru (National Editor Design), Swati Chakrabarti, Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Singh, Saket Misra, Suhas Kale, Shailendra Mirgal

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

CULT THE OCS N OBSES IO

readings, gy or tarot , numerolo of abating? no signs or astrology it’s palmistry on for the occult show Whether our fascinati why does

Sushi On A Spicy Roll

Can Punjabi Chinese find global success, the way Japanese food has?

Now playing: Bollywood’s passionate romance with foreign actresses. The big question is: who needs who more?

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Cover design: Swati Chakrabarti Cover photo courtesy: Colston Julian


Bollywood loves foreign actresses. Foreign actresses love Bollywood. Both need each other for fame and fortune, but whose need is greater?

he great

BY AMRAH ASHRAF

THE VERY ENGLISH AMY Jackson was just recovering from the disappointment of

PHOTO COURTESY COLSTON JULIAN

having lost the Miss England title

AMY JACKSON

(after scooping the Miss Liverpool crown in 2010) when a call from India changed the 17-year-old’s life dramatically. Somewhere in Chennai at that time, director A L Vijay was planning his next film. Vijay, who had earlier worked as director Priyadarshan’s assistant, saw Amy’s pictures on the ‘Miss England’ website and knew immediately that she was the fresh face he was looking for to play the lead role in his blockbuster Madrasapattinam. Today, Amy is romancing one of Bollywood’s most desirable hunks, Prateik Babbar, in Gautham Menon’s Ekk Deewana Tha. A dream start, some would say. No, it’s sheer hard work, says Amy. When 39-year-old New Yorker Poorna Jagannathan decided to take a break from moonlighting in American TV shows like the medical drama Royal Pains, the legal drama Law & Order and the dark comedy Rescue Me to attend a wedding in Mumbai, she had no idea her flight to Mumbai would be a flight into Bollywood. One audition and six months later, Poorna, the mother of a five-year-old, became

IN LOVE AAJ KAL, BRAZILIAN GISELLI MONTEIRO CAME ACROSS AS A REAL PUNJABI KUDI

Menaka – the feisty journalist in the Aamir Khan production Delhi Belly. Firang hysteria, some would say. Presumptuous is how the IndianAmerican actress describes it. Till about three months ago, few Indians had heard of adult film actress Sunny Leone. But after her short but well appreciated stint in Bigg Boss 5, the Indian-origin actress has become a household name. While some filmmakers are waiting to sign her up, Mahesh Bhatt has already confirmed Sunny Leone for


white hope Angela Jonsson (father from Iceland, mother from Mangalore) has been cast opposite Salman Khan in Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kick. Is this an invasion of aliens?

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Angela Jonsson is the most recent import and has been cast opposite Salman Khan in the movie Kick

the sequel of his hit movie, Jism. Sex sells, some would say. Yes, it does, says Sunny. Then there’s Nargis Fakhri. The half Czech, half Pakistani actress just romanced Ranbir Kapoor in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. Sri Lankan import Jacqueline Fernandez had a quiet start in Bollywood opposite Ritesh Deshmukh in Aladin, but now she’s actor-director Sajid Khan’s muse and will be seen in Sajid Nadiadwala’s Housefull 2 and Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz 3D. Model Lisa Haydon (her mother is Australian, father Indian) started in a supporting role in Aisha, but soon played the lead in David Dhawan’s Rascals. And the most recent import,

t isn’t as if Bollywood hasn’t had white-skinned foreigners on its sets before. For instance, Raj Kapoor cast Russian actress Kseniya Ryabinkina in Mera Naam Joker, to name just one of the foreign lovelies (see box) who made their way to B-Town. But white foreigners were mostly cast in colonial roles or only had character parts. Then in the last few years, blonde backup dancers descended on Bollywood in droves. That worked for everyone. What’s happening now, however, is different. Over the last three years, a surge of actresses and models from abroad have been trying to make it big in mainstream Bollywood, playing Indian girls in Indian roles, eagerly signed on by directors like Imtiaz Ali, Sajid Khan and Mahesh Bhatt. So what happened? “It’s the reverse Slumdog effect,” says Prashant Chadha, director of Azaan. “It’s not as if foreign actresses were not coming to the industry earlier, but after Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, we realised that if Freida Pinto could fit in Hollywood, then we could also import actresses from other countries and create a selling point of their exoticness.” Chadha proves his point with a string of foreign names that came into Bollywood before 2008, and almost immediately vanished. They were British actress Alice Patten in Rang De Basanti, her fellow Briton Rachel Shelley in Lagaan, Tania Zaetta in Bunty Aur Babli and Salaam Namaste, and Ali Larter in Marigold. Ditto for South African beauty Ilene Hamann who was seen in Pooja Bhatt’s Rog, Baywatch beauty Brande Rodericks in Out of Control and Serbian model Jelena Jakovljevic in the Pritish Nandy Communications’ film Popcorn Khao Mast Ho Jayo. Canadian-Indian actress Lisa Ray also briefly shone on screen, most notably in the famous

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

(Left to right) Lisa Haydon, Lisa Ray, Barbara Mori, Yaana Gupta, Nargis Fakhri, Candice Boucher

BE KIND,

REWIND

If you turn the clock back, you’ll find that Bollywood has always attracted foreign actresses KSENIYA RYABINKINA: Raj Kapoor introduced this Russian actress in his 1970 film Mera Naam Joker.

JENNIFER KENDALL: She starred in Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane in 1981. Shashi Kapoor produced the film, and then married her. SYLVIA MILES: This American actress was seen in the Dharmendra starrer Shalimar in 1978. SOMY ALI ZAHIDA ZAHIRA: This sexy British actress was in Gambler opposite Dev Anand. ZEBA BAKHTIYAR: This Pakistani actress starred in box office hit Henna in 1991 opposite Rishi Kapoor. SOMY ALI: One of Salman Khan’s many ex-girlfriends, this Pakistani import started her career in Bollywood with Anth in 1993. BABITA: This Bangladeshi actress got her golden chance in Satyajit Ray’s Asani Sanket. HELEN: This Anglo-Burmese item girl was perhaps the first – and definitely the most wellknown – ‘firang’ babe.

HELEN

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makeout scene in Kasoor, before almost disappearing from our shores. But post 2008, actresses like Jacqueline Fernandez, Giselli Monteiro and Lisa Haydon are steadily moving up the ladder. Even newer imports like Nargis Fakhri, Amy Jackson, Angela Jonsson and Poorna Jagannathan seem to be here to stay. Though that, as director Mahesh Bhatt points out, is ultimately up to them. “There’s no 100 per cent success rate, but today the industry is far more accommodating,” says Bhatt. “Even the audience is ready for this change. It is now up to these foreign actresses to be the masters of their own destiny.”

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hese days, selling a film is as important as making one. To sell a film, you have to make it the talking point for the junta and half your job is done. So filmmakers have realised that an exotic name will get the audiences talking – especially in a country that still overdoses on fairness creams and ‘gori-chitti’ brides. “Fair skin has always been our weakness. The film industry has been cashing on it for years, but now they’ve realised that fair and exotic is a bigger selling factor,” says a casting agent on condition of anonymity. “Look at Mahesh Bhatt. He could have cast anyone for Jism 2 but he decided to cast Sunny Leone who is not only fair and firang but also a porn star. His film is already hitting big numbers online, all because of Sunny’s popularity.” Bhatt agrees with this assessment to an extent. “I agree we have a fair skin obsession. It is hardwired in our beliefs but you can’t dismiss the fact that sometimes a role has certain requirements. In Sunny’s case, the role deals with a girl who makes a living out of dubious means. It will be easier for people to believe the character with Sunny playing it,” he explains. This also explains Playboy model Candice Boucher’s popularity in Prashant Chadha’s Azaan. The Playboy tag stuck with her and Chadha took full advantage of that. “Of course Candice was a selling factor for us,” says Chadha. “She kept Azaan alive in conversations, the media couldn’t get enough of her and the hype about her meant hype for the film.” Even though the film tanked, Candice became a ‘star’ in her own right. However, this makes Indian models and aspiring actresses very angry. They feel filmmakers prefer foreign girls simply because they are foreigners. “When we go for auditions, we are treated like minions while the foreign girls are always treated nicely. Why? Because we still haven’t gotten over our firang fascination,” says Preksha Tripathi, an aspiring actress. And it’s not just Indian girls who believe there is discrimination. Angela Jonsson too believes the firang tag gives you an edge. “Indian culture is biased towards white skin and you see

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Sunny side up

Bollywood’s latest import, Sunny Leone, is no aspiring starlet. She has a full-fledged adult film career and is one of the top porn stars in the world. Now starring in Mahesh Bhatt’s Jism 2, Sunny explains her Indian move.

Was working in Bollywood your big dream? Bollywood always intrigued me. I grew up watching Hindi films and I absolutely loved them. Being an actress in Bollywood is every little girl’s dream – to wear those clothes, sing those songs, do those sexy moves. I was no different. But because I am an adult film actress, I never thought people here would accept me. So I didn’t really think of Bollywood seriously.

What went through your head on the flight to India? I was very apprehensive about my safety. What I do in the US is legal, but in India pornography is illegal. So I had to really weigh my options before coming here. I didn’t want any legal hassles. I was also very worried about political outbursts because of my background, but luckily nothing happened.

Why did you sign up for Bigg Boss? I was desperate to be on the show because it’s a challenge for an adult film actress to be seen on a family television channel. And I knew that if the fans got to know me, they would love me.

Do you feel you are the perfect choice for Jism 2?

When Mahesh Bhatt came to the Bigg Boss house, I didn’t know who he was. But when he offered me the film, I realised what a big name he is in the industry. I am very excited about Jism 2. Have you seen the poster? Wow! The script is really strong and I feel like it’s meant for me. It’s bold and beautiful, just like me.

Would you change anything about your life? No! Why would I want to change anything about my life? I am not ashamed of being who I am. I love my profession. I am an adult film actress and I have no qualms about it. I express my creativity in a different way. Had I not been a porn star, I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I wouldn’t even get a Bollywood film.

‘PLAYBOY MODEL CANDICE BOUCHER’S

ADULT MAGAZINE TAG WAS A SELLING POINT FOR AZAAN. SHE KEPT THE FILM ALIVE’

that everywhere – in advertisements, TV shows, matrimonials, and to an extent in films. But that’s not the only reason why foreign or NRI girls are getting roles in films,” she counters.

t

oday, everyone agrees that Bollywood is the new buzzword. It has become an identity in itself, so much so that international television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Got To Dance recognise Bollywood as a dance form. Naturally, with the outlook of Bollywood becoming global so rapidly, more and more actresses are looking to try their luck in B-town. “The lines between Sita and Julie

are blurred now,” says Bhatt. “If an actress fits the role, why bother about her origin? Plus the migration of actors is a good sign. It shows that Bollywood is now seen as a serious industry and growing in its aspirational levels, not just with NRIs but also with foreigners. What is wrong in having the best of both worlds? Exploiting the ‘aah’ factor makes sense.” Even the actresses feel that being a foreigner is no longer a limitation. Brazilian Giselli Monteiro who played a Punjabi kudi from the ’60s in Love Aaj Kal was very convincing. British actress Amy Jackson, who will be seen in saris and salwar-kameezes in Ekk Deewana Tha also manages to look the part. “I have naturally dark hair. They

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

Meri Hindi theek hai. Mai bol bhi sakti hoon aur samajh bhi sakti hoon. Bas, accent ghalat hai. – SUNNY LEONE

SAY WHAT? Hindi is not the easiest language to master. So we asked our foreign imports to say a few lines and impress us all.

Mujhe India bahut accha lagta hai (In her very British accent) – AMY JACKSON

Mera naam Angela hai. Mai theek hoon. Aap kaise ho? (She giggles) – ANGELA JONSSON


made me wear dark contact lenses, salwar kameezes and saris (which I adore) and my look was complete. Don’t I look desi in the film? I think I do and I love it,” laughs Amy.

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ut the story is a little different for NRI actresses. Going into Bollywood is like going back to their roots. Girls grow up watching Bollywood movies, idolise actors, practice all the jhatkas and matkas in front of the mirror and dream of being the next Katrina Kaif. “No matter where in the world we Indian girls are, a huge part of our identity comes from Bollywood,” says Poorna Jagannathan. “We are attracted to Indian stories – whether it’s Jhumpa Lahiri or Mira Nair telling them. So naturally, Indian actresses from all over the world want to be part of that narrative. Not to mention the fact that you can act in all the Hollywood movies you want, but your mom will only really be proud of you when you bag a plotless masala film in mainstream Bollywood.” Also, sometimes a foreign actress is cast in a role solely on the filmmaker’s whim. “You can’t battle a filmmaker’s ego,” says Chadha. “If he feels a certain girl fits the role, then nothing can stop him.” Gautham Menon, who puts it more subtly, says, “How a filmmaker perceives and develops a character is very intrinsic. When I saw Amy, I knew I wanted her in Ekk Deewana Tha. No other reason.” If you look at some of the recent choices, it becomes apparent that there is no particular reason why an

actress is cast in any role. Sometimes the experiment succeeds, like Giselli Monteiro in Love Aaj Kal, and sometimes it fails, like Nargis Fakhri in Rockstar. People assumed that Giselli was in fact a Punjabi girl and Imtiaz Ali’s experiment worked. But Nargis Fakhri stuck out like a sore thumb in Rockstar and Imtiaz Ali’s experiment failed.

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f course, there is another important reason why foreign actresses are the flavour du jour in Bollywood. And that has to do with their ‘bold’ moves. Even though Indian actresses have moved away from their pure and pristine avatar, filmmakers still believe that the audience is still more likely to accept a Barbara locking lips with Hrithik Roshan than a Priyanka Chopra. Also, foreign actresses are less likely to reject films just because it has a bold scene or two – or three. “It’s not as if we are ready to go risqué at the drop of a hat, but yes, I think we are definitely more comfortable in our skin,” explains Yaana Gupta, former model and Bollywood item girl. “I was used to shooting for lingerie catalogues back home and it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Abroad, people are much more free and relaxed with their body. So I was very surprised when people said my Babuji song was racy!” Poorna too agrees that she wouldn’t reject a script on account of its bold scenes. And she had no problems pulling off an onscreen fake orgasm and a scintillating lip lock in Delhi Belly. Finally, some people think everyone’s making entirely too big a deal about the influx of foreign actresses. For instance, Samrat Solanki, the owner of Tulip

LIFE AS IT IS

PHOTO COURTESY AMYN HOODA

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abuji girl Yaana Gupta was barely 19 when she came to India seeking spiritual guidance at Pune’s Osho ashram. She had been travelling the world for modelling assignments since she was 16, and needed a break. But suddenly, she became beauty company Lakme’s brand ambassador. “At that time I saw India as a poor country and didn’t think there was any ‘good’ work happening here. I didn’t even know about Bollywood at that time,” recalls Yaana. “But suddenly I became famous. It still seems quite surreal.”

Casting Agency in Mumbai. “Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world and produces some of the finest movies today,” points out Solanki. “Every film industry has foreign imports, so why not Bollywood? Did the media create such hysteria when Freida Pinto, Aishwarya Rai, Anil Kapoor, Gushan Grover and Irrfan Khan worked in Hollywood? I feel that sometimes we act like wide-eyed children who can’t believe that people from across the world would want to work in our industry.” Now, what else is there to say?

SRI LANKAN import Jacqueline Fernandez had a quiet start in Bollywood, but now is actor-director Sajid Khan’s muse and is acting in Housefull 2

amrah.ashraf@hindustantimes.com

British model Amy Jackson, who started her Indian film career with A L Vijay’s Madrasapattinam also refers to her journey from Liverpool to Mumbai as surreal. “I was 18 years old and I was going to be a Bollywood actress! I couldn’t believe my luck,” says Amy. But leaving home was nerve wracking. “When I came to India, I was overwhelmed,” she says. “I had never seen anything like this before. I didn’t understand the language, the food was too spicy for me, I didn’t understand the mannerisms of the people. It took me a while to settle down. Now I feel I belong to Mumbai.” Amy has learned to speak Hindi – though her British accent re-

IN BOLLYWOOD, says Poorna, as long as

you look like a calendar girl, you’re in demand HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

mains as strong as ever. Kingfisher calendar girl Angela Jonsson, who will soon be seen in Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kick opposite Salman Khan, is also working on her Hindi. But ask her to say a line or two in the language and she bursts into nervous laughter. “Don’t put me in a spot!” she says. “I’ll fumble.” All Bollywood actresses face media pressure. But the foreign girls have it worse. “One thing I realised quickly is that public image is everything in Bollywood,” says Amy. “Not only do you have to look good all the time, but you must sound virtuous as well.” Poorna Jaggannathan is more candid. “In Bollywood, there’s something called ‘the Kingfisher Syndrome.’ As long as you look like a Kingfisher calendar girl, you’re in demand in Bollywood,” she laughs.

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Travel

IN FULL BLOOM

Winding mountain roads. Exotic orchids. Windswept monasteries. Snowy Himalayan peaks. There’s plenty to see – and do – in Sikkim text and photos by Katie Dubey

G

OING OVER the Coronation Bridge spanning the Teesta river, we crossed over from West Bengal to Sikkim. From here on, the sapphire blue Teesta became our companion. Originating in the icy confines of a glacial lake at 17,487 feet, Tso Lhamo, the Teesta gathers strength and volume as it streams down forming a natural divide between Darjeeling and Sikkim. Two incisions ran deep in the mountainside; the ravines of the Teesta and the road above it. Between them lay slopes of rain-drenched dense jungle. Miniscule flowers, bright spots on a green mat, dotted the slopes and often edged the road. Only some stubborn boulders remained grey-blue and bare. Up and up we wound, and then the road was running along the treetops, their trunks, hundreds of feet below, lost to view. After five hours of winding up the mountainside, we crested a slope and were halted by traffic which heralded our arrival in Gangtok! Being tucked away in the outer range of the Himalayas has not prevented Gangtok from spreading out. The green forest has been replaced by vertical blocks of brick and cement coloured yellow, green and blue. When we entered the city, it was immediately identifiable by the characteristic bus

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stand and milling crowds – the hallmark of all hill stations.

AN EARLY START

Living at sea level in the western part of the country, I did not realise how early the day begins in the eastern mountains, until a strong beam of light hit my eyes. Groggily, I squinted at my watch. 4 am. Oh God! But the sun was over the hills, and soon I decided to follow the sun. We made White Hall our first halt to see the seasonal flower show that was attracting crowds with its rhododendrons. The place itself is value-added with its graceful two-storied structure, built in 1932 in memory of Claude White, Sikkim’s first political British officer. We spent a while here, but soon headed out to the National Research Centre for Orchids at Pakyong, 40 km out of Gangtok. The Centre is on a hillock surrounded by greenhouses, hothouses and orchidiums. The research scientist is delighted to have visitors and comes along to show us his precious blooms. We are told that there are 25,000 species in the family Orchidaceae, and India has 1,700 of them. Around 800 are found across the Himalayan hills while 450 species are native to Sikkim and Darjeeling. But of course, as forests continue to be decimated for development, these fragile and

mysterious plants are threatened with extinction. The centre is now protecting and reviving important species like Cymb-idium, Dendrobium and others in greenhouses. Armed with this knowledge, we follow our guide and are swept off our feet as we set eyes on orchids of numerous hues, sizes and shapes. It is late afternoon when we guiltily realise that we have deprived our host of his lunch in our enthusiasm and finally take his leave.

FOREST FRENZY

Back in the city, we realise that the Gangtok Mall is just delightful. A pedestrian zone, well paved with lovely shops on either side and benches down the centre for idlers. However, we turned our attention to the bakery we spotted and went in for a coffee and snack. By the time we emerged, street lights were winking at us. This time we sat on a bench to enjoy the dip in temperature while shooting some night pictures of the mall. Charged with the beauty of the hills, we took off for Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary early next morning with Ogden, a botanist, as our guide. A dynamic young Lepcha, Ogden was all zest and kept up a running commentary about the flora of Sikkim. Often he would get the taxi to halt to show us wild flowers by the

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

WONDROUS VISTAS (Clockwise from top left) The Himalayan peaks, glimpsed from Sikkim; The Mount Pandim hotel; The Mall in Gangtok is a good place to hang out; A local shopkeeper warms herself with a cup of tea while waiting for customers


TRAVEL INFO

RED SPREAD The rhododendron bloom took our breath away

GETTING THERE Air: The closest airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra airport in West Bengal, 124 km from Gangtok. Tourists can also fly from Bagdogra to Gangtok via a daily 20minute helicopter service operated by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.

FLOWER POWER The orchid grows wild, and is cultivated in homes

UNIQUE BLOSSOM The Cobra Lily can be found in Sikkim

CELESTIAL SIGHTS

TEMPLE OF LEARNING The Pemayangste Monastery in Pelling is one of the oldest in Sikkim

roadside. Fambong Lho covers 5,280 hectares and peaks at 7,000 feet. We walked steadily for an hour uphill through rhododendron forest, blazing with bright red blooms and pausing often to regain our breath or take pictures. The forest is reputed to be the home of the Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Leopard, Civet Cats, Chinese Pangolins, several reptiles and over 281 bird species, although it was rather quiet on the morning we walked through.

A STAR TURN

The next day, a buffeting wind engulfed us as we alighted from our jeep, pricking my half clad arms with icy spikes. Hugging myself for warmth, I dashed through the door of the hotel, Mount Pandim. In our room, the wide window attracted us like a magnet. Framed perfectly within its glass rectangle was a panorama that kept us glued to the ground. Finally wrenching ourselves away, we decided to drive to Yuksom, 40 km from Pelling. Yuksom is perhaps better known for its connection with Bollywood star Danny Denzongpa than for its history. Along its main street the only major structure was that of a hotel belonging to Danny. The rest were shacks or makeshift tents beneath which locals spread out their wares, mostly clothes and shoes that come across the border from China. Nevertheless Yuksom, meaning the

‘meeting point of three wise men’ and its Dubdi monastery, are landmarks of Sikkimese history. It is said that three lamas converged here from different directions, and chose the first Chogyal, king, whom they crowned in 1641. Yuksom became the first capital of Sikkim. Dubdi was built later in 1701 an hour’s trek away from Yuksom, deep in the forest. Once housing 30-40 monks, today only a few remain, but it still holds valuable paintings and manuscripts along with the statues of the three lamas who anointed the first Chogyal. Pelling, at 6,800 feet is remote. Even now, it is just one street with single storey homes and just a few hotels coming up. Pelling draws people today because it stands face to face with the patron Goddess of Sikkim – Mount Kanchengjunga. Perhaps, in the past, that would have propelled the king to build a summer palace here. Today, the palace is a heritage hotel with a frontal view of the high Himalayan range.

LIVING AT SEA LEVEL, I DIDN’T REALISE HOW EARLY THE DAY BEGINS IN THE EASTERN MOUNTAINS

The alarm shrieked at 3.30 am. I groggily ran to the window, drawing the curtains apart. A thick curtain of cloud greeted me. 4.30 am. Anxiety struck my heart. If the clouds did not roll away, sunrise on the peaks would be lost. A minute or two later, one solitary peak raised its head. Rent apart, the cloud curtain dropped and there, close enough to touch, stood some of the highest peaks of the world, draped in dazzling white snow. The pyramidal shape of Kanchengjunga towered above the others. 5 am. The light got a bit stronger and a pencil thin beam of golden spangled light shot out. By the minute, the light spread rapidly, torching each peak like a taper put to candles and they flared up radiantly, blushing mildly. We watched the rapidly changing scene through the lens only in single pointed concentration, aware that this was a never to be repeated show. After that, we turned our attention to our next destination, Pemayangtse Gompa, the second oldest monastery of Sikkim founded in 1705. Pemayangtse stands aloof on a hilltop, ringed by the mountains it venerates. As we entered the courtyard we heard chanting from within the hall, the sound floating melodiously on the crisp air and saw prayer flags flutter in the wind. To the left of the stairs is housed a large prayer wheel in its own enclosure. Pemayangtse is a three storied wooden structure. The main prayer hall holds a massive statue of the Buddha flanked by his other incarnations and teachers of the sect. The first floor has more idols of the stalwarts of Buddhism, and on the third floor is a unique floor to ceiling structure – the ‘Sanghthokpalri’ – a seven tiered painted structure that encompasses all that is on earth and ascends to heaven. Fascinated, I silently salute the monk who gave five years of his life to this creation. Then I descend to the main hall, the Lakhang. I sit quietly on a low bench facing the Buddha, absorbing the peace in His abode. After a while, I hear my name called out. The world prevails and I leave the monastery to rejoin it.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

Rail: New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in West Bengal, are the two rail stations nearest to Sikkim. New Jalpaiguri is 125 km and Siliguri 114 km from Gangtok. Road: National Highway 31A connects Gangtok with Siliguri. (courtesy www. sikkimtourism.travel/) WHAT TO SEE GANGTOK: is perched on a mountainous ridge, 5,500 feet above sea level. Once a laidback village, Gangtok has now awakened to the new world. Like the Himalayan eagle, it is now taking to the skies with semi-high rises of seven to eight stories, more hotels and busloads of tourists surpassing the local population. Soon it will have its own airstrip. FAMBONG LHO WILDLIFE SANCTUARY: is said to be the home of the Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Leopard, Civet cats, Chinese Pangolins, several reptiles and over 281 bird species. YUKSOM: became the first capital of Sikkim in 1641. Today, it is a revered site. PELLING: is a big draw because it affords a magnificent glimpse of the patron Goddess of Sikkim – Mount Kanchengjunga.

GREEN SPECTACLE This wild orchid is one of Sikkim’s rare blooms

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Sanjoy Narayan MAN ON TOP Les Claypool ranks among the top bassists in rock today

The Talented Mr Claypool

Goggles, masks and vintage military uniforms; nasal, slightly repressed voice; an otherworldly virtuosity with the electric bass guitar: what’s not to like about Les Claypool?

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HERE IS something about Les Claypool that makes you instantly become very fond of him. It could be his voice – it sounds slightly nasal and strangely repressed and yet it is very boyish; it reminds me vaguely of the voice that a certain Indian industry lobby group’s former boss used to have except that the latter did not sing and when he spoke he always managed to make you feel mildly irritated. Or, it could be, and very likely is, Claypool’s almost other-worldly virtuosity with the electric bass guitar. Claypool slaps and strums and taps his guitar, creating a trademark bass sound that, no matter which band he is playing with, makes him sound like the lead player. Or, maybe it is just the way Claypool looks on stage: his beard, goggles, masks, animal costumes or the liveried vintage military uniforms that he is known to don. But, as I said, it is quite likely his music – with its one-of-a-kind sound – is what endears you to Claypool. Frontman of Primus, the San Francisco band he formed in the mid to late 1980s, Claypool ranks among the top bassists in rock today but, sadly, he is not as ubiquitously known among the genre’s fans as he ought to be. In the 10 years between 1989 and 1999, Primus released eight albums. Shortly thereafter, they broke up and took a hiatus before reforming again and, last year, they came out with their ninth full-length album and their first in almost a dozen years, Green Naugahyde. Primus have gone through line-up changes – particularly with their drummers – and Claypool has been involved in a series of other projects. Yet, Primus’s music has not wavered from its avant-rock, ironic and humour-laced trademark. If you’ve heard them before, you can recognise Primus’s sound from the very first bars and Claypool’s bass, of course, but, and refreshingly so, you can never predict which path the bass genius will lead his band into on the track that you’re listening to or the one after that or the entire album thereafter. Claypool’s been compared to the late Frank Zappa – his music was also replete with humour and irony – and I learned (only recent-

ly, I must admit) that he also once auditioned for Metallica when that hard rock outfit lost its bassist in an accident in the mid-1980s. The legend goes that Claypool didn’t land the job because the band found him to be too good! Years later, Metallica’s James Hetfield appeared as a guest on one of Primus’s albums. Claypool has collaborated with several others. On Oysterhead, a superband-ish outfit, he played as part of a trio that included Phish’s lead guitarist Trey Anastasio and Police’s drummer Stewart Copeland; on Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, he enlisted the services of the highly talented but maverick electric guitarist Buckethead (so named because of the empty KFC bucket that he wears on his head along with a mask that makes it impossible to see his features); he’s had a band called Sausage and another called The Les Claypool Flying Frog Brigade; and he’s even collaborated with veteran singer-songwriter Tom Waits, including an appearance on the big man’s 2011 album, Bad As Me. And yet Claypool is not very well known in rock circles, which is a pity. On 2011’s Green Naugahyde, a good enough album to begin exploring his music, Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane offer tight drumming, agile guitar riffs and, of course, the trademark slap, tap and strum of the bass guitar. The lyrics are none too serious and, at least for me, don’t really matter because it’s all about the music. I haven’t listened to Primus’s pre-hiatus later albums (I’ve heard that they aren’t as good as the early ones) but I’ve heard some of their older ones – such as Suck On This and Frizzle Fry – and they’re good. Green Naugahyde reminds me of those early days of Primus. It helps too that Les Claypool hasn’t lost his mojo. After all, as I said, Primus = Claypool. If that’s not enough reason for you to explore Primus and Claypool, here’s some more recently gathered (via Wikipedia, where else?) trivia: Claypool has a boutique wine-making venture that makes wines with names such as Purple Pachyderm and Pink Platypus. How can you not like such a man?

2011’S GREEN

NAUGAHYDE IS A GOOD ENOUGH ALBUM TO BEGIN EXPLORING LES CLAYPOOL’S MUSIC

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JANUARY 22, 2012


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Sushi On A Spicy Roll

Vir Sanghvi

Modern Japanese cuisine was more or less invented by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and today you will find Nobu-style restaurants all over the world. In India, you already have Wasabi. Now Megu seeks to introduce its own brand of modern Japanese

rude food

IN PARTNERSHIP Robert De Niro collaborated with chef Nobu Matsuhisa (left) to open a restaurant in New York

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NOBU, NEW YORK

PHOTO: REUTERS

O YOU think that Punjabi Chinese or Sino-Ludhianvi cuisine could spark an international trend? It’s a serious question and I ask it because of the global success of modern Japanese food. Most of us know that modern Japanese cuisine was more or less invented by the chef Nobu Matsuhisa who now owns restaurants all over the world. Some of us may also know that Nobu developed his cooking style when he was in Peru working in a Japanese restaurant there. Initially, before the term ‘modern Japanese’ came to be applied to his food, it was often described as Japanese-Peruvian. What is less known is that Nobu had his Eureka moment in Peru because of the Chinese food he ate in that country. Because Peruvians like spicy food, local Chinese restaurants added chilli and other South American flavours to their cuisine. Nobu ate Peruvian Chinese, recognised that it bore little resemblance to the Chinese food served in China and wondered if the same sort of variations could be introduced to Japanese food. By the time he was through with South America (he cooked in Peru and Argentina) he had the germ of an idea in his mind. Why not take traditional Japanese dishes and spice them up? So he invented New Style Sashimi which is essentially raw fish which is cooked by the addition of citrus juices or warm oil and then spiced up with jalapeno peppers and the like. So successful was this experiment that Matsuhisa, the restaurant ZUMA

he ran in a strip mall in Los Angeles, soon became one of that city’s most popular places. The director Roland Joffe who was then filming The Mission with Robert De Niro took his star to Matsuhisa. De Niro loved the food so much that he begged Nobu to open a restaurant in New York in partnership with him. Matsuhisa took four years to agree but when he did, De Niro went the extra mile in promoting Nobu (a much easier name for restaurant goers to pronounce than Matsuhisa) and turned Nobu Matsuhisa into the world’s most famous chef. (How many other chefs can you think of who are known only by their first names?) Nobu has opened many branches (most in partnership with De Niro who probably makes more money from restaurants than he does from acting, these days) all over the world but what’s more important is that he has created a cuisine: modern Japanese. If you’ve never been to a Nobu, then here’s what the food is like: it has Japanese roots but it uses ingredients that are not part of the Japanese tradition – olive oil, cheese, cream, chilli, peppers etc – to create flavours that are fuller than the customary starkness of real Japanese food. Plus, there are concessions to popular taste. Most Japanese people eat nigiri sushi (the kind where they put a piece of raw fish on a pellet of cooked rice) but Nobu specialises in rolls (where cooked rice encases a variety of ingredients which are usu-

CHEF RAINER BECKER STARTED

ZUMA WHICH WAS A FRESH TAKE ON MODERN JAPANESE BUT OWED ITS SUCCESS TO NOBU’S PIONEERING WORK 12

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012


indulge PHOTO: REUTERS

ally cooked and spiced), many of which are unheard of in Japan. You will now find a Nobu-style restaurant in nearly every major city in the world. Even if it is not owned by Nobu it is probably run by a former collaborator or by an imitator. For instance, Masaharu Morimoto was the first executive chef of the New York Nobu. He has now gone on to open many successful restaurants of his own (including branches in Delhi and Bombay) where he serves a modern Japanese cuisine based on Nobu’s principles. In London, the German chef Rainer Becker started Zuma which was a fresh take on modern Japanese but owed its success to Nobu’s pioneering work. There are now Zumas in many major cities (the Bangkok branch opened a few months ago) and most of the guests treat them as alternatives to Nobu. Efforts to get Nobu to open in India have always failed. The Taj approached him before it spoke to Morimoto but could not strike a COSY COMFORT deal. The Leela signed him up for four restaurants but at the last The two Indian Wasabis in Delhi (above) and Bombay are small, clubby moment, Nobu backed out claiming that after 26/11 he feared that enclaves where everybody knows everybody India would be hit by a recession and arguing that he PHOTO: THINKSTOCK had suffered in Dubai because of a downturn in the economy. No matter. There are other restaurateurs serving modern Japanese. The Taj went to Morimoto. And the Leela went to Megu, a chain of flashy, upmarket restaurants that have received mixed responses from food critics but appeal neverthesless, to an audience of global travellers. Apart from the two original New York Megus, there are now branches in Doha and Moscow. I wondered what the Delhi Megu would be like. I thought the Leela had a problem in deciding how to pitch the cuisine. If you get Nobu then you trump Morimoto’s Wasabi by saying that you’re offering people the original. But how do you introduce people in Delhi and Bombay (a new Megu will open in the space where the Great Wall restaurant now stands at the Bombay Leela) to modern Japanese when they are already familiar DIFFERENT FLAVOURS with Morimoto’s take on Nobu’s food? Do you not run the risk of Food at Nobu has Japanese roots seeming me-too? but it uses ingredients that are not In the event, I think the Leela has solved the problem brilliantly. part of the Japanese tradition – There is, first of all, a differentiator when it comes to the food. Though olive oil, cheese, cream, chilli, Morimoto’s own restaurant in New York has many innovative dishpeppers etc es that he has created himself, his Indian restaurants rely on menus stolen from Nobu. (When I had dinner with Nobu in Dubai some You go to Wasabi for the food. But at the Delhi Megu, even if you years ago he told me that Morimoto confessed to him: ‘Ninety per don’t like the food (which, by the way, was excellent the night I went) cent of my Indian menu, Nobu-san, is completely your food.’ When there is still a sense of partaking of a dining experience in a specI asked Morimoto about this, he was ambivalent.) tacular-looking restaurant. In that sense, Megu is not unlike the It’s difficult to do modern Japanese by using only traditional Leela’s great success story, Le Cirque, which manages to appeal to Japanese ingredients but Megu tries to avoid Nobu’s over-use of diners who can’t tell their Florentine steak from Eggs Florentine. European flavours. Instead, it relies on the complexity of Japanese It helps, I think, that the service at Megu is outstanding and well cuisine (the quality of the miso, the lightness of the fresh wasabi etc) informed. The delays in the opening have allowed the staff to become to give the food an oomph. So, you will get Nobu-style dishes (New familiar with the cuisine and its complexities. Plus there are innuStyle Sashimi, rock shrimp tempura etc) but they will usually have merable serving rituals – steak flambéed at the table, carpaccio a twist. For instance, their fried shrimp does not rely on a sauce (as seared at 1,000 degrees Centigrade by smokeless charcoal on your Nobu’s does) but introduces a depth of flavour to the shrimp itself. plate, fresh wasabi grated into your sake etc – that make the expeAnother example: Nobu’s most famous dish is black cod in miso. rience seem more special and luxurious. Though this has now become a menu staple and the most ordered So my guess is that the restaurant will do well. It’s not aiming for dish at nearly every modern Japanese restaurant, PHOTO: THINKSTOCK the Wasabi clientele (though prices are on par and Megu does a variation with silver cod and without the you can eat more cheaply at Megu than you can crispiness at the base of the Nobu version. at Le Cirque plus the wine pricing is not as ridicuSome of it works. Some of it is less successful – I’ll lous as the Leela’s reputation suggests) and will take Nobu’s black cod over the Megu dish any day. But hit special occasion places much more than it will the food is certainly distinctive. Plus there are other affect the Wasabi-Sakura kind of place. With dishes that do not have their origin in Nobu’s work. Hakkasan looking for a location in Delhi after its The real difference between Megu and the Nobusuccess in Bombay, Megu could well be the pioWasabi kind of restaurant however, is in the experineer of a new trend of glamorous Asian places. ence. Nobu’s restaurants are large, cheerful places. But that brings us back to where we started. If The two Indian Wasabis are small, clubby enclaves Sino-Peruvian cuisine could inspire Nobu to tinwhere everybody knows everybody. Megu, on the ker with centuries of Japanese culinary tradition other hand, is very much a special occasion restauand to invent a globally famous cuisine, then why RAW SPICE rant (like, say, The Orient Express or the old Zodiac has Sino-Ludhianvi been able to inspire nobody New Style Sashimi is raw fish Grill in Bombay) where every guest feels pampered except for your local thelawallah? cooked by the addition of citrus and the staff strive to provide a sense of occasion. It’s a good question. And I don’t have an answer. juices and spiced with jalapenos

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE

JANUARY 22, 2012

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GRAND PROTEGE Masaharu Morimoto was the first executive chef of the New York Nobu

TIME TO CELEBRATE Megu at The Leela is very much a special occasion restaurant where every guest feels pampered and the staff strive to provide a sense of occasion

PHOTO: CC/INTERCONTINENTAL HONGKONG

HOT FAVOURITE Nobu’s most famous dish is black cod in miso


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Unkindest Cut Now that it’s time to tighten our belts a little, which luxuries are you willing to give up?

spectator

Seema Goswami

PHOTOS: THINKSTOCK

MUST DO I don’t grudge a rupee that I drop at my friendly neighbourhood hair salon because it is simply the best pickme-up in the world

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T’S THAT time of the year again. When the office grapevine begins to buzz with how the raise scenario will play itself out this year. If you are one of God’s chosen creatures, you will probably end up scoring a decent raise. But if you’re not – and given the state of the economy, I’m guessing this is far more likely – you will be fobbed off by a token increase that is risible given the rate of inflation. And if the Fates truly have it in for you, then you will be sent a sad little form letter from the HR department telling you this is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the company by sacrificing their salary hikes at the altar of corporate profitability. In that case, like millions of other hapless souls, you will be forced to live on a wage that buys much less than it did and doesn’t, in fact, go very far. And that means those dreaded words that strike terror in every middle-class heart: budget cuts. Cuts. How cruel it sounds! Cuts: as in something that hurts, causes you pain, injures you and leaves you less than whole. But however traumatic we find it, cuts are something that all of us will have to make as our salaries fail to keep up with our expenses. And the first thing to go will be the little luxuries that make life a bit more fun. But when it comes right down to it, what luxuries would you be willing to forgo? And which of them would you find impossible to live without? In other words, which of your luxuries do you need rather than just want? Which of them are just luxuries; and which of them have become that dangerous thing called Luxecessities – luxuries that have turned into necessities as you try to cope with your daily grind. Speaking for myself, there are some things that I simply refuse to forgo, no matter how frivolous they may seem to the rest of the world. And on top of that list is hair-styling: highlighting, trimming, conditioning, blow-drying. The rituals just add up every year – as indeed, does the expense. But I don’t grudge a rupee that I drop at my friendly neighbourhood hair salon because it is simply the best pick-me-up in the world. Fine, go ahead and judge me (as I am sure you are!) but I consider the money spent here the best investment ever. It makes me feel good about myself, and there’s no substitute for that in an increasingly gloomy world. To make up for this profligate spending, I have given up on my coffee habit – well, after a fashion anyway. I no longer drop by Barista for an early morning cappuccino or two; I don’t send out for a couple of double espresso shots in the late afternoon; I don’t buy a tall glass of creamy cold coffee when I’m feeling a bit peckish. Instead, I’ve invested in a coffeemaker which is considerably less complicated to operate than it looks and spews forth coffee that would do any Italian restaurant proud. It makes espresso, it serves Americanos and froths up a mean cappuccino. (Word to the wise: use south Indian roasted beans; they’re a fraction of the price of Illy and Co and just as good.) Another luxecessity I find hard to give up is bookbuying. There is something so supremely addictive about the high that I get from browsing through book shops that I find it hard to go cold turkey. I love the smell of freshly-bound books, the clutter on the shelves, the colourful covers, the juxtaposition of the sublime with the ridiculous. I love the inevitable dithering between two

PICK AND DROP I’ve invested in a coffee-maker (above) which spews forth coffee that would do any Italian restaurant proud, and have given up on magazines (top)

equalling compelling volumes and then heading home, warm with the anticipation of spending the evening curled up with my latest purchase. To fund this addiction, I’ve given up on magazines. I’ve always been a bit of a mag hag, devouring everything from shaming gossip rags to elevated publications that lecture me about the state of the world. But of late, I’ve begun to feel that the expense is simply not worth it. There’s nothing here that I can’t get for free on the Internet. And if there’s some really compelling content then it’s easier and cheaper to download the app on my iPad anyway. Don’t ask me if any of my cuts have made the slightest difference to my household budget. I haven’t the foggiest. But just the thought that I’m trying to cut down on frivolous expenses does make me a little better. If you’re looking to make a few economies of your own, here are some ideas. ■ Cut down on eating out; restaurant bills have a way of piling up. And if you’re paying by credit card you may not even notice until it’s too late. Instead, tap into your inner Domestic Goddess (or whatever the male equivalent is) and turn cooking into a fun, family activity. ■ Rid yourself of the multiplex habit. The expensive tickets, the popcorn and soda combo offers begin to add up after a while. Discover the joys of ordering movies on Showcase or the delights of DVD box sets. ■ Forget about exploring exotic, foreign locales on your vacations. Revive those oldstyle home-stays you enjoyed as a child when you spent holidays in the houses of family and friends. Who knows, you may just end up gaining much more than the money saved.

RID YOURSELF OF THE

MULTIPLEX HABIT. THE POPCORN AND SODA COMBO OFFERS TEND TO ADD UP

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HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

seema_ht@rediffmail.com. Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami


LOL! It’s good for you

Wellness

Can you giggle yourself fit? Some doctors believe that you can by Kavita Devgan

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LTHOUGH THE idea that laughter improves health has been around for centuries, the modern therapeutic use of humour originated in the 1970s when American journalist Norman Cousins documented laughing as a major curative factor during his prolonged ailment. He stated that 10 minutes of laughing gave him two hours of drug-free relief from pain. Cousins was laughed at then (ironic, isn’t it?). But today science seems to have proved him right. A good sense of humour means all is well.

SO WHAT IS HUMOUR, REALLY?

“Humour consists of laughter (the physiological component), wit (the cognitive component), and mirth (the emotional component),” explains Dr Ashima Puri, consultant psychologist, New Delhi. “Humour can actually change our feelings, thoughts, behaviours and biochemistry. It is

CHUCKLE CHART ■ Laughter increases immunoglobin

A which fights upper respiratory diseases ■ It increases tolerance to pain by increasing levels of natural pain-killing opioids ■ It brings in more oxygen and keeps the internal organs moving ■ It raises immunity by boosting the production of white blood cells

MIND BODY SOUL SHIKHA SHARMA

Why fad diets fail

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a perfect self-care tool to cope with stress. We know that there is a connection between stress and high blood pressure, muscle tension, suppressed immunity and other diseases. Now studies have proven that laughter is the perfect antidote for stress,” she adds. So while stress is inevitable in life, it doesn’t have to take a physiological toll on us. You just need a good belly laugh to drive it away.

SPLIT YOUR SIDES

Besides its psychological benefits, laughter gives your body direct boost too. In fact, it has been found that intense and regular laughter increases the flow of oxygen through your body. Dr Puri quotes a study conducted in the US. A group of people were given a funny video to watch, while another group watched a documentary. Afterwards, both groups were tested and those who had watched the comedy had higher levels of immunoglobulin A – a substance found in saliva and the first defence the body has against viruses and bacteria. Laughter provides exercise too. Hearty laughter can burn calories equivalent to several minutes on the rowing machine. And here’s the clincher. Laughter can make you look younger. It tones facial muscles and leads to an increase of blood supply to the area, which nourishes facial skin.

MAKE IT A HABIT

No one believes that laughter can cure a disease all by itself. But it can be used to strengthen both the mind and the body. Create a laughter first aid kit with humorous videos, books and cartoons and use it when you want to feel better. Or join a laughter club. Make laughter a priority. After all, it is free. brunchletters@hindustantimes.com

HY DO some diets work, and then after some time just stop working? What is the perfect diet that actually works all the time? How can you lose weight and keep it off? These are some of the questions on everyone’s mind. So we shall try to unravel these mysteries. Why do diets work and then stop working? Most fad diets are based on removing cereal from the meal plan and replacing it with a high source of protein or some fancy fruit, vegetable or beverage. The fancy element could be as exotic as wine and cheese or a fruit like pineapple or a single element like bacon. When you are attracted to such a diet, you follow it strictly for a week and notice the weight loss. But as the weight loss tapers off, so does your enthusiasm. Why do people want to follow fad diets? There are three factors involved. One is the hidden belief that this might be the miracle quick fix! People love miracles, especially if they can quickly fix a weight problem without having to change any habits. The second factor is the fact that fad diets provide novelty. A diet equals deprivation, so a fad diet holds the magic of novelty and a quick fix. But alas, the affair EXOTIC ELEMENT with fad diets is short-lived. Fad diets replace cereal The third factor is the belief that with wine and cheese you can get results quickly with a fad diet. We lack the patience to get slim. A fad diet holds the (mistaken) apparition or dream of quick results. Why do people regain all the weight they lost? Simply, it is because permanent weight loss needs habits to be changed. Not diets. Most people who go on a diet lose some weight, feel happy about it, get lax, return to their old habits and put on weight again. Most people avoid changing habits because they think it is a tedious process. But to put things in perspective, if you count the number of times you have gone on a diet (say you lost 10 kilos four times over) and multiply the time taken to achieve that (six months is the average time multiplied by four = 24 months or two years), then you can see that fad diets are not quick at all. Like the proverbial hare and turtle race, a fad diet is like the hare that keeps running the race every year, while the turtle enters the race once and wins it forever. ask@drshikha.com PHOTOS: THINKSTOCK, MCT


Variety

A DIFFERENT

SH T

Exciting things have happened to wedding photography. For one thing, it’s become real by Veenu Singh

ANDREW ADAMS Moved from Toronto to India to capture Indian weddings as “they are so colourful and emotionally rich.” Doesn’t offer fixed packages as each wedding is unique

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S KIDS, we all had those moments. Bored, we’d wander to our parents’ cupboards, root about the shelves, and emerge triumphantly with big, fat, ornately decorated photo albums – the pictorial proof of our parents’ and relatives’ wedding days. Going through the albums was a blast. We’d chortle over those outdated fashions, exercise our wits over the sizes and shapes of the wedding guests, make rude remarks about mandap decorations, but most of all, comment on one particular thing – the poses and compositions those old-time wedding photographers insisted on. Every photo looked the same as every other photo. Only the faces and outfits changed. You wouldn’t see wedding photos like those often these days. In fact, if young couples had their way, you’d never see photographs like that again. What’s cool now is candid shots. Wedding pictures are now keeping it real. “There is no denying the fact

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A COLOURFUL SAGA The old wedding album has given way to a sleek coffee table book. A page from Atul Pratap Chauhan’s work

that weddings are a kind of family reunion,” says corporate communications executive Aroma, who recently got married. “But at the same time, I wanted my wedding pictures to tell a story about my husband and I as a couple. I wasn’t keen on pictures of who came for my wedding and who wore what. It was my special day and I wanted to capture those memories forever.” Parents, at this time, are not too thrilled about this new photo trend. But well-travelled couples love it. “Candid photography or a documentary style of wedding pictures has been trendy internationally for a few years,” says Andrew Adams, a wedding photographer from Toronto now shooting in India. “A lot of NRIs who are used to seeing this want a similar experience for their own weddings. It’s a more contemporary approach and young people prefer it.” Here’s a look at some new wedding photography.

aised in a non-religious Canadian household, Andrew Adams was not exposed much to world culture until he moved away from home to study photography. “After my schooling I wanted to travel and explore the world. I have always been fascinated with South Asian culture, so naturally I became very interested in photographing Indian weddings,” says Andrew. Why weddings? Because, according to Andrew, they allow him full creative freedom, something not often found in other types of com-

veenus@hindustantimes.com

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

mercial photography. Candid photography is Andrew’s forte, something that he feels very strongly about. “My style is unobtrusive and my goal is to tell the true story of your day, as seen through the lens of a sensitive, documentary photographer. And candid shots are real,” he says. This means that planning isn’t possible. Shooting a wedding docuEMOTIONAL ATYACHAR Catching the groom off guard (above); the vidai ceremony is all about raw emotions between father and daughter (below)


SHARIK VERMA Left his job with Wipro to focus on photography. Loves wedding photography because it captures different cultures. Is a fanatic about travelling, both in India and abroad

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PHOTOS WITH GRANDPARENTS COULD BECOME HEIRLOOMS

mentary style, Andrew must just go with the flow. “I capture what happens as it happens, naturally,” he explains. “For posed photos, yes, I do instruct the bride and groom and family when it’s appropriate to do so, but NEVER during a ceremony! I would never interfere with the religious portion of the wedding.” Since some parents are not 100 per cent certain of the results of candid photography, Andrew always suggests that they hire another photographer to do the posed pictures, so everyone is happy. Meanwhile, he himself is happy shooting at all kinds of weddings in all kinds of places. He prefers shooting in colour, since Indian weddings tend to be bright, but when it comes to emotional moments, he’d rather do black and white. Having shot Indian weddings for 12 years, Andrew naturally has a lot of memories. “My most favourite moments are often during the vidai ceremony, when it’s all about raw emotions,” he says. “These are the best moments to capture. By this time the family is used to me and my camera and often let their guard down, so I am able to capture the real, heartfelt moments. These will be family treasures to keep for generations to come.” He also focuses on the larger family, especially the grandparents. “It may be the last photograph ever taken of the whole family together and these photographs will become cherished family heirlooms,” he says.

ome people would seriously envy 24-year-old Sharik Verma, once an engineer with Wipro, now a photographer of weddings – and more. “During my tenure at Wipro, I bought a camera and went about clicking for fun. Then, I decided to take a trip to Zanskar and came back with lots of photos, including some of the Dalai Lama,” says Sharik. “Two of my best pictures of the Dalai Lama were sold for charity by an NGO, which made me think about photography seriously. And then I realised that I could combine that with travel. Two of my favourite things at one shot. I was decided.” But even a travelling photographer can’t survive without money, and Sharik desperately needed a portfolio. “So I decided to try shooting products and did some fashion assignments as well. But I missed the creative satisfaction I was looking for.” Then a chance meeting with Atul Pratap Chauhan, who not only did commercial photography but had made a mark in the field of wedding photography, showed Sharik the way. “Atul looked at my work and inspired me to take up wedding photography which would not just give CREATING A STORY Sharik prefers to call himself a photojournalist because he is involved with the families in every moment

me a chance to showcase my creative side, but also let me travel,” says Sharik. But Sharik doesn’t like being called a wedding photographer. He prefers to be referred to as a photojournalist. “I don’t just click pictures, I get involved with the family in every moment of the celebration and then try to capture their moods and emotions from an insider’s point of view,” he explains. “I interact with every important person of the family, understand their personalities and remain with them during the preparations as well as the final celebrations. I dance with them, eat with them and feel as sad as everyone else when the wedding is over.” A large number of his clients are NRIs who are used to seeing this kind of involvement among photographers abroad and want the same style to be adopted here. Sharik is a big fan of minimalism and that’s how he shoots wedding photos too. “The best thing about Indian weddings is the fact that there is a riot of colours everywhere and I prefer to capture those real colours with as little use of photoshop as possible,” says Sharik. So are there any favourite weddings moments that he’ll remember forever? “I really feel that destination weddings are much more fun as the gathering is small, the location is usually fantastic and you are able to capture the emotional moments in a much better way,” he says.

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

MY WORK GIVES ME THE CHANCE TO MEET PEOPLE AND TRAVEL AS WELL

“Besides this, intercultural or interreligious weddings are also favourites as you get to see all kinds of different ceremonies and rituals.” One great memory is of a wedding in Udaipur between two UKborn Indians. “It was a very close family affair that gave me the chance to capture some great moments, and I developed a great rapport with the families,” says Sharik. And once the wedding season comes to an end, he’ll take his earnings on a road trip through Europe – taking pictures all the way.

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PRIYANKA SACHAR A project manager in the IT industry and an enthusiastic photographer, Priyanka ‘marries fine art with photography’. She’s one of the very few female wedding photographers in India

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he works as a manager in the IT industry, but Priyanka has always been passionate about photography. “Being a ‘memories’ person, photography started as a requirement to document my travels, but that soon became a form of metaphorical expression and symbolism through images,” she says. Her work, which “marries fine art with photography,” has won her much recognition, but in October 2010, Priyanka decided to take on commercial wedding photography. “Marrying (no pun intended) ‘Fine Art’ with wedding photography was TWIST IN THE TALE Totally candid moments make great pictures (left); Catching the bride while she is getting ready (above right)

ATUL PRATAP CHAUHAN Left a job in the hospitality industry to pursue his passion for photography. Does commercial photography but wedding photography lets him be at his creative best

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tul Pratap Chauhan, a commercial photographer, stumbled into wedding photography by sheer chance. “I came to Delhi in 2009 and was assisting

only natural,” she says. “It involves clicking the same situation artistically and without turning the subjects into bunnies caught in the glare of headlights. It is probably one of the most challenging forms of photography ever.” That’s because there’s a lot going on at every given moment. “So one needs to be alert for what ‘may’ come next in terms of emotions and candid moments,” explains Priyanka. “Unlike traditional studio photographers, I prefer using ambient or naturally available light to create my pictures. I avoid harsh lights and flashes directly popping into the faces of the subjects.” The keys to getting that perfect candid shot, she says, lie in spotting moments as they unfold and being almost invisible so that people

Sephi Bergersen, a well-known name in wedding photography. He was shooting a Pakistani wedding and I was helping him with some interior shots,” he remembers of that fateful day. “While doing that, I took some candid shots of the wedding ceremonies that Sephi saw later and liked. He advised me to follow it up seriously and I decided to give it a shot.” For a commercial photographer constrained by working to a client’s specifications, wedding photography often means complete creative freedom. While destination weddings are what Atul prefers the most, he is open to covering weddings

are not conscious of being clicked. Priyanka loves what she does, particularly weddings that have some sort of twist to them. “I can’t wait for gay weddings to be legalised in India so I can do something different,” she grins. As one of the very few female wedding photographers in India, Priyanka is much in demand with brides, who are more comfortable with a woman taking photographs while they are dressing for the ceremony. “Moreover, I am a person from their generation, with a similar kind of background, so that puts them at their ease instantly, because it’s starkly different from a ‘studio’ photographer bhaiya-ji experience,” says Priyanka with a chuckle.

anywhere in India. And his favourite weddings are the intercultural ones, which offer a wide range of emotions, colour, drama and action. “Although, I’m usually hired by the bride, meeting the bride and groom together is essential to understand the level of comfort between the two,” he says. “This is important while doing pre or post wedding shoots with them. “In fact, for couple shots like these, I usually prefer to take them to locations like Corbett National Park, where the two of them get comfortable with one other.” Since Indian weddings are colourful, Atul naturally prefers to shoot in colour. But emotional moments, such as the vidai, almost demand black and white, he says, because that kind of photograph enhances the emotion. “And in fact, it’s the vidai moments that are my favourites at all the weddings I shoot,” Atul adds. “The range of emotions you see is so wide.” That he loves what he does is obvious – the 30-year-old’s plans for the immediate future include an exhibition on village weddings. BUILD THE BOND For Atul, meeting the couple for pre or post wedding shoots helps create a level of comfort that can result in great candid shots

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HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012


PERSONALAGENDA AGENDA PERSONAL

IMOGEN HEAP One song that describes your current state of mind? Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal.

What would we find in your fridge right now? Mould.

How would you explain Twitter to your grandmother?

The most clichéd answer you’ve ever given in an interview? Take me to your leader.

If you were an ice-cream, what flavour would you be?

You wouldn’t be caught dead in…

I didn’t do it.

I wouldn’t get myself tattooed. Full stop.

If a spaceship landed in your backyard, what would you do? I’d say take me to your leader.

Your darkest fantasy?

Singing karaoke with a spider in my jeans in James Bond’s house.

School/ college

Occupation First break

Friends School, BRIT School for Performing Arts

Musician, singer, songwriter and visual artist

My debut album, iMegaphone

High point of your life

Low point of your life

What are you doing currently?After the recent

Winning the Grammy for my album Ellipse

December 9

When I was dropped India tour of The Dewarists, I’m set by my first label to release my new song PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The one lie you got away with? Where did you spend the last summer?

Switzerland, hiking in the Alps.

How many pairs of blue jeans do you have? Two. But I never wear them.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever given your date? I’m going out with someone.

— Interviewed by Veenu Singh

WHAT IS THE LAST THING YOU BOUGHT UNDER `10?

IF YOU COULD PEEP INTO ANYONE’S HOUSE, WHOSE HOUSE WOULD IT BE?

JAMES BOND

A POSTCARD

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Havering, Essex, UK

Your most irrational fear… …Big English housewives.

The one place where you would never get yourself tattooed?

Birthday

Sagittarius

Nutty.

Small details of daily life that I want to share on a creative level. A karaoke bar.

Hometown

Sun sign

HINDUSTAN TIMES WEEKLY MAGAZINE JANUARY 22, 2012

YOU’D TURN GAY FOR?

SEVEN OF NINE (JERI RYAN) OF STAR TREK


Hindustantimes Brunch 22nd January 2011  

Hindustantimes Brunch 22nd January 2011

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