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WEEKLY MAGAZINE, MARCH 25, 2012 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times

Survive the heat

Wardrobe rule number one: Less is more

Deep freeze

Where celebs go to chill

Sneak peaks

The essential reading list of mountain books

‘The greatest rapper’

Why Akshay Kumar loves Eminem


Having spent decades in dowdy swimsuits, it’s about time! VIR SANGHVI

Southern spice


The wire-free challenge

SANJOY NARAYAN Yardbirds revisited


That dreaded ‘A’ word


W AT C H O U T F O R We’ve given our Facebook page a hot, sassy makeover. Like it? Then, go right ahead and ‘ ’ it to join the Big Brunch Party...

25.03.2012 Summer


This week’s edition welcomes all that’s good about summer: bikinis, celeb travel plans, and a little warm weather guide. Here’s to sunshine on our shoulders!

indulge 14 SPECTATOR That traumatic moment when you realise you are middle aged 16 RUDE TRAVEL Hotels in South India have evolved — and how Talk to us! We promise to respond to your feedback, good or bad. Send us messages, post on our Facebook wall and comment on our web links. If you didn’t get your weekly Brunch, worry not. We upload everything (and more) on our Facebook page. So, what are you waiting for? Log on to

19 DOWNLOAD CENTRAL The Yardbirds: a platform for Clapton, Beck, Page

Photo galleries We have lots of amazing pictures. Check out our photo albums!

Twitter Click here to see our last 40 tweets. Follow us!

Full stories We post links of every story on Facebook. Read the full versions.

Top fans We love reader interaction! You could become our Top Fan!

20 TECHILICIOUS Part two of the wire-free challenge: how to get rid of the wires in your home Erratum

inbox LETTER OF THE WEEK! Get out of my kitchen!

YOUR STORY (Where No Man Has Gone Before, March 18) may tempt women to push their husbands into the kitchen. I warn them of the unpleasant consequences. My husband fancies himself as a five star chef and constantly points out “flaws” in my cooking. On Sundays, he forgets his promises to take the kids out and invites his buddies (without consulting me) because these freeloaders are ardent fans of his culinary skills. My advice: NEVER ALLOW YOUR HUSBAND TO ENTER THE KITCHEN.

— NEHA MEHTA, via email


When Farhan met Sonam Actors Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor steam up the cover of the latest issue of Brunch Quarterly. Since we couldn’t possibly print all the absolutely gorgeous pictures of the never-seen-togetherbefore duo, we decided to create a photo gallery and upload the best of the exclusive shoot online.

Split-Screen gone wrong Sometimes, even though actors put in their best, the film turns out to be pathetic. Read award-winning writer/filmmaker Gautam Chintamani’s latest post on what happens when a good actor meets a bad film. Read Split-Screen every Friday online!

Neha wins a shopping voucher worth `2,500! Congrats

Write in, the best letter every week can win you a SHOPPING voucher worth

R2,500!! MARCH 25, 2012

In the story (The Other Voices, March 11), I wrongly identified as Shreya Ghoshal’s blog – it is actually a blog run with her permission by a fan. Ms Ghoshal has since confirmed to me that she does not have an official blog. The fault is mine alone and I apologise for it. Also, as a result, Ms Ghoshal’s name is no longer on the list of entertainment bloggers. – Mahesh Murthy

Cover design: ASHISH SINGH Cover photo: PARIKHIT PAL FOR SHRIVAN-NARRESH EDITORIAL: Poonam Saxena (Editor), Aasheesh Sharma, Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi, Mignonne Dsouza, Veenu Singh, Parul Khanna Tewari, Yashica Dutt, Pranav Dixit, Amrah Ashraf, Saudamini Jain DESIGN: Ashutosh Sapru (National Editor Design), Swati Chakrabarti, Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Singh, Saket Misra, Suhas Kale, Shailendra Mirgal, Monica Gupta

Drop a line at


The Brunch Blogs

This week, read Of Red Lipsticks and Crystal Glasses by Yashica Dutt. On fashion and Hollywood pop culture.


or to 18-20 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001



Warm Weather Kit



Less is more this summer, but only if you choose the right clothes and accessories to structure your look. Here’s the definitive guide

A hat is apt for an afternoon event like a Derby. A compact straw hat with a partridge feather could do the trick


by Amrah Ashraf illustrations by Rahul Krishnan





A pair of sunglasses with a chrome feel that would reflect the sun fashionably

A GOOD WHITE SHIRT A European cut shirt in crisp cotton is a must have

NECK ACCESSORY A beautifully designed silver chain with a small memento in silver around the neck paired with a black leather string ‘Tabeez’ locket



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TAN SHOES, BELT AND WATCH STRAP A detailed leather belt perhaps in a Coca Cola rust colour with a small buckle

Pointed shoes in rust to match the belt



A TROPICAL LINEN SUIT It’s formal, it’s casual and its totally cool


A small push slider BlackBerry 9810 Torch. Well designed business cards on bio-degradable paper Last but not the least, a good splash of spicy cologne by Ralph Lauren or Armani



Denim jeans without wash and fade technique

Watch what you drink

Excessive alcohol and aerated drinks will dehydrate your skin. Drink a glass of warm water with lime juice and honey first thing in the morning to flush toxins out of your body and prevent dark circles

Inputs from Raghavendra Rathore, fashion designer

Smell good

Use a long lasting alcohol free deo roll-on, followed by a generous spray of a good anti perspirant. Use mild but long lasting fragrance with a hint of orange and lemon essence

MARCH 25, 2012

Care for your hair

Use a mild daily shampoo. Condition thrice a week. Use water-based gels to style your hair. This prevents the pores on our scalp from getting blocked. Try L’Oreal Professional and L’Oreal Homme

USE A FACE WASH INSTEAD OF SOAP: It removes surface grease, oil and pollution from the skin. Most face washes come with exfoliating beads that will leave your skin looking and feeling buffed, fresh and hydrated. Neutrogena, Palmolive and Fiama make some good formulations. USE A FACE MASK ONCE A WEEK: Clay-based masks tighten the skin, unblock clogged pores and keep your skin looking both fresher and younger. Use natural and organic products. Tea tree face mask by Lotus Herbals is really good, as are products from Forest Essentials. PREVENT OUTBREAKS: Drink a minimum of four litres a day and reduce your intake of fried, oil rich and spicy food, especially if you are prone to frequent skin breakouts. Use an astringent thrice a week – ideally at the end of the day. Astringents have antiseptic properties and drastically reduce pimples, blemishes and acne. They also help clean clogged pores, remove stickiness, excessive oil and accumulated dirt from the surface of the skin. PREVENT SKIN CRACKING: Use a water-based moisturiser every night on a clean face. Rest assured, you will wake up to soft, supple and hydrated skin. If you have chapped lips, use an effective lip balm before you sleep. Make this part of your daily routine. I personally like the moisturisers from Shiseido, Clarins and Jergens. –Yatan Ahluwalia is India’s leading image consultant, style columnist and specialist on men’s skin, hair and grooming





Fedoras are perfect this summer. Apart from hats, corsages are very endearing – go for all sorts of flowers



Cat sunglasses – are an absolute must

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You definitely need a fully sequined evening jacket. A bit of glimmer is always welcome for evenings. Team a fully sequined evening jacket with well-tailored palazzos



Breezy floor length dresses are essential this summer. Look for all over or placement floral prints. Geometric and architectureinspired ones. Lightweight cottons and silks are the best options. Whites with pastels work wonderfully on dresses. Play with the hemline

You must have handbags in the solid colours of the season. Some colours you must own this summer are yellow, tangerine, indigo blue, grass green, poppy red and Tiffany blue


Breezy office wear

The coolest thing to do this summer is to sport interesting pants. Wear front-pleated tapered pants with a cool print or embroidery. No longer do pants need to be boring and viewed as just supporting silhouettes. Find yourself interesting coloured pants with funky motifs. The best length would be ankle length. Colours to choose would be burnt mustard, tangerine, indigo blue, red, hyacinth blue, grass green, honey and of course black

WELL TAILORED cotton shirts with palazzos or front pleated tapered pants are a must-have this summer. Obviously office wear can’t be too garish, but allow one colour to pop out. Do it subtly with your bag, a scarf or even cute colourful shoes. Invest in interesting separates. Mix and match is the key. Spruce up your look with summery accessories like hair bands and clips. Some colours you can go for this summer are burnt yellow, tangerine, aubergine, acid green and honey. Stay away from the usual suspects like black, brown and grey.

Statement waistcoat Get interesting statement waistcoats to go with shirts and ankle length pants with funky prints, embroidery, texture, wash or silhouette detail. Colour blocking is still big, so think contrasting colours

Brogues or oxfords are the hot show silhouettes. These work not only with day wear but can also be taken into evening wear. Opt for printed or solid colours for the day

With inputs from Nida Mahmood, fashion designer


If you think summer is harsh on you, think about your pet. While you cool your heels by the pool sipping on a frosty drink, your furry friend also needs as much cooling as you do. Here are some ideas to help your dog beat the heat Photo courtesy

DOGGIE GOGGLES: He might hate it at first but once he gets used to them, doggie goggles will become his best friend. He will be able to run around and jump into pools without damaging his eyes in the heat.

COOLING PADS: Give BANDANAS: Your dog your furry friend a cool may object to this at and comfortable bed to first but if you can tie sleep on. Go for a cool a bandana around his water bed but make head or neck, it will sure it’s rip-resistant. save him from the harsh sun outside. But USE COLD WIPES: Wipe if he resists too much, your dog with cold then avoid it. And wipes with a splash of remember to remove eucalyptus to keep him it once he’s in. clean and cool. Charu, Mumbai based pet stylist and activist

Get funky bandanas for your pet Photo courtesy: http://

Pretty oriental hand fans make everyone look sexy. Try making battery operated ones look hot. MARCH 25, 2012





What else are the gruelling hours in the gym, painful tummy tucks and the two-piece shopping for?

n a i d n I e Ar Girls

by Yashica Dutt

Ready? Poster Girl

What Kingfisher Calendar Girl SAIYAMI KHER did to get into a bikini: ■ Ran for more than 10 km every single day! ■ Gymmed for one and a half hours daily with light weight-lifting exercises: three times more than she did on a regular basis ■ Having represented Maharashtra in the sport earlier, played badminton whenever possible to keep herself toned and pursue an activity outdoors ■ Gave up chocolates and sweets entirely, something she says she can’t live without. Even avoided rice and rotis and survived just on veggies. ■ Knocked off more than 5 kilos and several inches in just one month! ■ Felt amazing about herself, no matter what!

MARCH 25, 2012


AVING PUT off swimming for most of my teenage and early 20s, I finally decided to dip a diffident toe in a pool last year. Not that I was scared of water or plagued by the horrors of a chlorinated and a urinated (I try not think about that!) public pool, but it was the sticky issue of the swimming costume that plagued my aquatic horror story. Growing up on a healthy diet of Baywatch and FTV Midnight Hot segments, the idea of wearing anything other than a two-piece/highcut scarlet red swimsuit seemed sacrilegious. So, I waited it out to achieve the ‘bikini-ready’ body. Did it pan out as planned? Umm, No! And I was soon in the frumpiest swimsuit on the planet, with a little froufrou attached to the bottom. But I wasn’t alone, as even the svelte water babes dressed as embarrassingly at the poolside. Clearly Indians didn’t do bikinis. Or that’s what you’d think, if you manage to dodge the countless ‘Beachy Fun’ Facebook albums where every second woman wears a bikini, even if peeping slightly from under a frayed, loose T-shirt. However, the quickly climbing twopiece sales by resort wear designers Shivan & Narresh and, a lingerie online store, would point to the contrary. “Indian girls wear bikinis when they vacation abroad or in Goa. The maximum sales for our bikinis happen in the winter which is honeymoon season and the favoured time to holiday at global resorts minus the family,” says




Surelee Joseph wore a bikini for Anupama Dayal

Sanchita Ajjampur featured Sony Kaur in her show

BEING DESI: Indian models are being chosen over foreigners to wear bikinis now

CEO Richa Kar. “In summer though, we end up selling a lot of tankinis, shorts and single-piece swimsuits. It’s the time when women take up swimming, often in a public space,” she adds. Dropping inhibitions abroad seems easier than in India, where a little skin show is still discomforting. “I wear a single-piece swimsuit in Delhi, even though I own a bikini, only because men still can’t handle the dangerous poolside combination of booze, water and sexy women. I wish I could wear it without being seen as looking for unnecessary attention,” says Samhita Tanti, a communications professional.

that start right after the partyexcess December. Six months before her honeymoon, for instance, Manvi Khandelwal, 29, a Mumbai-based software professional, took to the treadmill. “I hit the gym six days a week for an hour a day and regulated my diet. Not just that, I also got regular massages, took full-body scrubs and made sure my skin was absolutely smooth for the big reveal.” Not only do girls throng gyms with a vengeance, the friendly neighbourhood cosmetic surgeon is also getting popular. Dr Anup Dhir, a surgeon with Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, says women come for breast augmentation and tummy tucks in March and April to get in shape for a bikini. “Sometimes, I also get requests for chemical peels for the butt to make it fairer and smoother.”

Bikinis by designer duo Shivan & Narresh are popular even in towns like Nagpur and Raipur


You can’t be ‘summer ready’ armed with just with a bottle of sunscreen lotion any longer. It now involves carefully calibrated preparations

Kareena won’t do it again, Katrina might, Rani will go half-way, Bipasha and Lara won’t eat for days and Anushka will field accusations of anorexia once she does it. But it’s not just the Bollywood brigade and ‘Page 3 types’ in metropolitan cities who fancy flaunting a bikini. Every tenth collection piece that designer duo Shivan & Narresh sell is a bikini and many of these are in towns such as Nagpur and Raipur. With a little obvious help from Bollywood’s growing obsession with beach scenes and TV shows like the Kingfisher Calendar Girl Hunt, the two-piece is grabbing more eyeballs than ever, thus shifting the bikini to borderline normalcy. Atul Kasbekar, photographer for the Kingfisher Calendar, agrees that it isn’t taboo to wear a bikini anymore. “Earlier, it was only the villain’s moll who used to slip into a pair smiling lasciviously at the poolside. Now A-list actresses donning bikinis have conditioned people.” But can a bikini dare overstep the boundary of an absolutely ripped body? Certainly, says designer Anupama Dayal, who regularly sends out models in bikinis and believes wearing one has less to do with having a perfect body and more with one’s attitude. “One of the girls in my production team, who isn’t the regular model size by any stretch of imagination, recently ended up lending a few of her bikinis to slender models who didn’t own a single pair!” Still not convinced? We suggest you Google real Brazilian women. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.


While attitude and comfort can take you places, a little sartorial advice is never wasted when trying a bikini. Vogue India’s fashion director Anaita Shroff Adajania says bikinis suit the Indian body type but you can still tweak them to look perfect . “Since we’re already used to showing our midriff and back with saris, Indian women are an almost natural fit for a bikini. Wear a high-cut to elongate your legs and the right bikini top to support your bosom.” Ultimately, if you’re still looking for the answer to our question: It’s a big, resounding, curvaceous YES! But we are still waiting to be inspired for the ‘Indian Man Ready for the Bikini’ edition!

HOW HOT ARE THEY? YOU SAY! ORANGE BOMBSHELL Halle Berry in Die Another Day. If you survive till then, that is! Brunch Rating: 8/10

BOND BLONDE Enough has been written about Ursula Andress’ breathtaking entry from the ocean in Dr. No. It’s still not enough! Brunch Rating: 9.866/10

BOBBY BABY Sparking a million adolescent dreams way back in the ’70s Dimple Kapadia at 16 made it look so easy, and cute! Brunch Rating: 7/10 ABS GRATER Thinking of grating salad on Lara Dutta’s hard abs in Blue? We did too! It almost looks possible! Brunch Rating: 20/10

Wait! Don’t gorge on that ice cream if you’re trying to slip into a teeny bikini. Swap ice cream for frozen yogurt. You’ll thank us! MARCH 25, 2012


WHO ARE YOU CALLING AUNTY? That traumatic moment when you realise you have tipped irrevocably into middle age


We colour our hair every five weeks to get rid of those greying roots


Seema Goswami


AST WEEK a friend of mine called up sounding distraught. Given that she is generally a ‘glass is half-full’ sort of person, I thought that there must be a major crisis in her life. As it turns out, I was right. She was suffering from a serious case of mid-life crisis, sparked off by a visit to a five-star hotel loo. It happened thus. She walked in and found a gaggle of excitable 20-somethings gibbering excitedly amongst themselves. They were still gathered around the sink when she emerged to wash her hands. And then, lipstick liberally re-applied, they started trooping out when one of them stopped and asked: “Whose bag is that?” Without missing a beat, the other replied, pointing to my hapless friend, “That’s aunty’s.” Yes, you heard right. It was that dreaded ‘a’ word. Aunty. My friend, a well-preserved woman in her 40s, is used to seeing people do double-takes when she reveals her age and assuring her that she looks at least a decade younger. So, the ‘aunty’ bit was a fell blow that left her catatonic for the rest of the evening. When she called me the next morning, she still sounded devastated. Did she really look so old that 20-something young women would refer to her as ‘aunty’? Did this mean that she was well and truly middle-aged now? Were the best years of her life over? Was she now on a slippery slope heading inexorably downwards? I have to confess that I wasn’t terribly sympathetic. As someone who acquired her first niece at the age of 12 (in my defence, my sister is 15 years older than me), I have become accustomed to being called ‘masi’ or ‘bua’ over the years. So what, I asked my friend, was the big deal about being called ‘aunty’? After all, technically speaking, she could have given birth to any of those young 20-somethings. And her kid’s friends called her ‘aunty’ anyway, right? That wasn’t the point, said my friend. “Standing there at the sink, I had this sudden epiphany. Now when people looked at me, they no longer saw me as an attractive woman. They saw an ‘aunty’. They saw someone who was well past her sexy-by date. And as I stood there, I realised that soon nobody would see me at all.” Yes, that’s a fear that all of us harbour at some level, don’t we? That as age takes its toll and nature wreaks its worst on us, we will turn into invisible women. The women whom nobody pays attention to; who are looked through at parties; ignored as they try to make purchases at a store. The women whom nobody leaps up to open the door for. The women nobody wants to chat up or flirt with. The women who are no longer seen as sexual beings. In other words, the women who fit into the ‘aunty’ category. And, for obvious reason, this is especially hard for women who have been considered beautiful or sexy in their dewy youthfulness. They are used to being the centre of attention in any room they walk into. They are accustomed to being treated with




We look in the mirror in the morning and we see a young person staring back at us

deference. They are used to being objects of desire. They are conditioned to think of themselves as special. So suddenly being reduced to ‘aunty’ status comes as something of a shock. And to an extent, it was this ‘Beautiful Woman’ syndrome that lay at the root of my friend’s trauma. It was a bit like the jolt an actress feels when she’s first told that she was not being tested for the heroine’s role, but for the role of the hero’s mother. But part of it was also down to the fact that ours is the generation of women who refuse to age. We are unwilling to let nature take its course when it comes to our appearance. Instead, we rely on extreme medical procedures to keep looking young for as long as we can. Ours is the generation that embraced Botox and fillers, treating them as lunch-time procedures. Ours is the generation that treats cosmetic surgery as an essential beauty aid, treating face-lifts as extreme facials. And not surprisingly, ours is a generation that looks much younger than our mothers did at our age. We exercise and diet so that we weigh the same as we did in our 20s. We wear the same clothes as our grown-up daughters. We colour our hair every five weeks to get rid of those greying roots. We slather on the anti-ageing cream last thing at night. We look in the mirror in the morning and we see a young person staring back at us. Yes, the jawline is a little slack, there is incipient creping of the neck, and the laugh lines run a little bit deeper. But hey, nobody would put us down for 40-somethings. We don’t look a day over 35! And then, you walk into a five-star hotel loo and a 20-something calls you ‘aunty’. That’s when you know that the game is well and truly over. You have tipped irrevocably into middle age – and there is no coming back.

Ours is a generation that looks much younger than our mothers did at our age

MARCH 25, 2012 Follow Seema on Twitter at



Between 1976 and 2012 the hotels in South India have evolved — and how


The fanciest palace hotel (most lovingly restored and newly opened) is the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad


Vir Sanghvi

HESE DAYS, South India is the centre of the growing Indian hotel industry. The fanciest palace hotel (most lovingly restored and newly opened) is the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. The most spectacular city hotel to ever open in India will be the Grand Chola in Chennai (I had a preview but I’m not allowed to tell you about it till ITC opens it officially). Bangalore is adding hotel rooms faster than any other city in India. And Kerala is our country’s greatest tourist destination. But 35 years ago, things were very different. When I first went to Bangalore in 1976, there was only the Ashoka, with the West End (which completes 125 years this year, by the way) chugging along as a run-down guesthouse for horse-racing fans and gamblers who would fly out from Bombay. I went from Bangalore to Madras and there was only the Taj Coromandel, the first modern five-star hotel in South India. The second-best alternative was the Connemara, then as now, my favourite old world Madras hotel, but in those days, still a sloppily-run Spencer’s property. But, an hour or so outside Madras was what I regarded as the finest and most romantic beach resort I had seen: Fisherman’s Cove, where the cottages were actually on the beach and you could wake up each morning to the sound of the waves.

MARCH 25, 2012

rude travel


Over the years, I went back to South India again and again. Some things changed, not necessarily for the better. Bangalore went from being a sleepy garden town to becoming first an IT hub and then, an urban nightmare (the situation that prevails today). But the hotels got better. The Taj took over the West End and restored it to its former glory. It transformed Bangalore’s food scene with two restaurants: Southern Comfort at the Residency and Karavali at the Gateway. ITC built the wonderful Windsor Manor and then, more recently, the smoothly efficient Gardenia. I’m not sure Madras changed that much though, even when it became Chennai. For years, the Taj Coromandel remained the city’s premier hotel and though the Taj took over the Connemara and refurbished it, the company also destroyed the hotel’s character by turning it into a business hotel, an act of historical vandalism that is otherwise uncharacteristic of the Tatas. But I went to Madras for the food and the sea. In 1997, the Taj opened what quickly became my favourite restaurant in the city: Southern Spice. Though the Taj has an unbeatable record for South Indian food – the first restaurant to serve appams in a five-star hotel (Southern Comfort in 1983); the first coastal seafood restaurant (Karavali) which started the craze that spread to Bombay; the first hotel to put dosas on the breakfast menu (the Bombay Taj in 1972) etc, Southern Spice was not entirely original. Though everyone involved (mainly Ajit Kerkar and Shankar Menon who brilliantly managed the Taj’s southern adventure and dreamt up Southern Spice) went to great lengths to deny it, the restaurant was essentially a rip-off of Dakshin, which ITC had opened at its Sheraton Park hotel in Adyar. Even the conceit was the same: a menu divided according to South Indian states and recipes sourced from families. Despite the lack of originality, I always preferred Southern Spice to Dakshin. I knew the chef who had planned the menu – ‘Nat’ Natarajan – from his Bombay days and in all the years I went to Southern Spice, I never ever had a bad meal.



I would decamp to Fisherman’s Cove for days on end. I would walk by the sea, watch the crabs as they scurried around the beach, and eat I went to Madras ten months or so ago and returned to Southern Spice. Chefs had come and gone in the decade and a half since the restaurant had opened but the food was still as brilliant as I remembered. But N Prakash, the hotel’s general manager told me that this would probably be my last meal there: the restaurant was shutting down for renovation. And now ten months later, a new restaurant has taken its place. They’ve had the sense to keep the old name (Southern Spice) but to all intents and purposes, this is a completely new experience. The décor is more contemporary, the look is lighter and they’ve finally junked the old Dakshin rip-off idea of listing the food state by state. Instead, the menu assumes that you are there to eat and have no interest in a geography lesson. I ate there twice last fortnight. The first time, I had dinner with Nat (who has overseen the new menu though his day job is corporate chef for Gateway Hotels) and Prakash (who is completely passionate about the food) and wondered if I was dreaming: Was the restaurant really that good? I had never eaten as well at the old Southern Spice – and I had eaten brilliantly there. So I went back for lunch and ate nearly everything else on the menu. My conclusion: I wasn’t dreaming. This really is a terrific restaurant with amazing food. I won’t recommend individual dishes because everything was so terrific but I will say that I could live on their rasams, day in and day out. The last time around, a plan to roll out more Southern Spices was abandoned because of serious upheaval within the Taj group.

But the new Southern Spice really is a world-class restaurant. The Taj should consider opening a branch in Delhi. If I was surprised by how much better Southern Spice was, then my feelings about Fisherman’s Cove were more complicated. Throughout the Seventies and the Eighties when I was a regular visitor there, the Cove was the unloved stepchild of the Taj group which was then entirely fixated on its Goa properties. Even though JRD Tata said it was his favourite Taj resort, the company refused to take much interest in it. Part of the problem was that it made no money and the Taj had to subsidise it with the profits from the Coromandel. It got week-end business (Madras residents looking for a break) but it remained empty for much of the week. (Who thought of Madras when they were looking for a beach resort?) This suited me just fine. Rates were low. Rooms were easily available and so, I would decamp to the Cove for days on end. I would take one of the relatively basic (by Taj standards) cottages on the beach, walk by the sea, sit out and watch the crabs as they scurried around the beach, and eat. And boy did I eat! The food at the Cove was always good. (Nat was the chef there in the 1980s). I would sit at a little bar on the beach called Bay View Point, eat freshly caught fish (there is a fishing village next door), grilled on the barbecue or pan-fried with local spices. Or I would devour the fresh oysters from the region. In those days, it was hard for restaurants to get wine so I would take my own bottle of Chablis and eat oyster after oyster (my record was 48 – I think – in one sitting), watching the moon rise over the Bay of Bengal. Then, Madras expanded. The city grew so far that my little retreat on the road to Mahabalipuram became a suburb. (The city limits now end just before the Cove). A new IT City came up nearby and suddenly, every IT hotshot started demanding rooms at the Cove. The consequences of all this have been that far from being the sleepy, money-loser that it was for decades, the Cove is now booming. It will probably make `50-60 crore in profit this year. It has among the highest average room rates in Chennai. A new wing has been added for conferences. And my quiet Bay View Point has become a flourishing restau-

Over the years, I went back to South India again and again. Some things changed, not necessarily for the better

MARCH 25, 2012


The Taj transformed Bangalore’s food scene with two restaurants: Southern Comfort at the Residency and Karavali (above) at the Gateway


Under chef Samir, the food at Fisherman’s Cove is terrific




The natural beauty aside, Vivanta Bekal’s two strongest features are the cuisine and the 1,65,000 square feet Jiva spa


The new Southern Spice really is a world-class restaurant. The Taj should consider opening a branch in Delhi


I won’t recommend individual dishes since everything was so terrific but I will say that I could live on Southern Spice’s rasams, day in and day out

rant with the highest average check in Madras. So, my feelings are complicated. I am happy that the hotel is doing so well but unreasonably angry that the world has invaded my private hideaway. There are compensations, of course. With size comes efficiency. Under BC Kumar, its current general manager, the hotel is better run than ever before. It offers a variety of new experiences: I did a dune buggy ride on the beach, a picnic in a nearby casuarina grove and an elegant dinner on the sands. They also offered to take me snake-catching, I asked if the snakes were poisonous. “Oh yes, sir,” they said. “We have cobras, vipers, every kind of poisonous snake.” Me: “Aren’t you worried that people might be bitten?” They: “Not to worry, sir. We carry an anti-venom injection with us. We will just give it to you if the cobra bites.” Me: “Thanks, very much. I’ll just read my book on the beach.” Not that I needed to go looking for snakes. The cottages on the beach are still where they were. The hotel is lovely. (I shot many segments for Custom Made at Fish Cove: the magician, the Tanjore painting, the Monicatini, the glass sculptor, the yoga on the beach etc. So you may have some idea of how beautiful it is). And under chef Samir, the food is terrific – though this time, I stopped at a mere dozen oysters! If Fisherman’s Cove is one of the oldest hotels in the Taj group (one of the first four, I reckon), then the Vivanta at Bekal is the single newest hotel. It opened a couple of weeks ago with a celebratory party, a juggling bartender and dances by Astad Deboo. Bekal is set to become the newest holiday destination in South India. It is in Kerala near the border with Karnataka (I drove in from Mangalore airport), already boasts of a Lalit Hotel and is unusually beautiful. The Taj property is grouped under the Vivanta brand which is headed by Veer Vijay Singh, an old school friend of mine and one of the Taj’s two most senior managers. Vivanta hotels differ from Taj luxury hotels – in theory – by being hipper, younger and less formal but the distinction can be hard to grasp, as is usually the case when a new brand architecture is imposed on an old chain. MARCH 25, 2012


Over the years, the hotels in Bangalore got better. ITC built the wonderful Windsor (above) and then, more recently, the Gardenia The Bekal property could well be a luxury hotel judging by the way it is built: just 75 cottages on 25 acres, or three guests per acre, which is an astonishing ratio for any resort hotel anywhere in the world. Many of the cottages overlook the Kerala backwaters and there is also a sea-beach at the other end of the hotel. The natural beauty aside, the hotel’s two strongest features are the food and the spa. That the food should be good is no surprise given that the Vivanta hotels are part of Ananda Solomon’s brief. But Bekal is special because Ananda’s family is from the region and he understands the cuisine better than most other chefs. The day after the party, Ananda and Valentine, the resort’s executive chef, served up an amazing Moplah breakfast, using recipes gathered from Kerala’s Muslim community. The spa marks Taj’s attempt to challenge the hegemony of ITC’s Kaya Kalp spas in this category. The Jiva spa at Bekal is huge (1,65,000 square feet, making it the biggest spa in India) and offers complete wellness packages including havens for spiritual healing. The Taj is clearly hoping that guests will come for week-long spa packages and Ananda has even created special spa food to suit the Jiva philosophy. Apart from the problem of access (Bekal is a two-hour drive from Mangalore airport), there’s no reason why the hotel – designed by an architect who understands Balinese styles – shouldn’t be a huge success. It is proof that the same group can run two outstanding resorts successfully, even if one opened in 1975 and the other in 2012. And anyway, it’s always great to be in South India.


the story or the cinematography and editing. I think I know what it was. It was the music. I think I took to London Boulevard even before the film had begun. Because of the song used in the soundtrack as the titles began unfolding. It was Sanjoy Heart Full Of Soul and it was by a band called The Narayan Yardbirds. Those of you who remember the music of The Yardbirds when you were young are likely to be very, very old now. But those who haven’t ought to give them a try. If not for anything else then for the fact that that London band, established in 1963, was an incubator for three people that I am sure every reader who has laboured through till this paragraph will know. No matter how old they are. The Yardbirds was the band where Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page – three of the most famous lead guitarists in rock history – cut JAILHOUSE ROCK their teeth. Before the band broke up in the 1960s, The YardIn many ways, The Yardbirds were like an birds experimented with special effects such as innovative platform for blues-based guitarists. fuzz, feedback, distortions and reverberations They experimented with special effects that we now take for granted: fuzz, feedback, distortions and reverberations. The band broke up in the late 1960s. Their last lead guitarist was Jimmy Page and we all know what he did after his first band broke up. Not to mention what the band’s other two alumni whom I mentioned got up to after their stint in The Yardbirds. Clapton left to join another legendary band, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and was replaced by Jeff Beck. A few years later, Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds and, for a while, Beck and Page played together, Page playing bass. There is a song called Happenings Ten Years The Yardbirds was the band Time Ago – a short, psychedelic two-and-a-half-minute number – on which you can hear both Page and Beck play. where Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck Beck plays lead with a fuzz box on Heart Full Of Soul, which and Jimmy Page cut their teeth you can hear right at the opening of London Boulevard. It’s a moody song, written by Graham Gouldman, singer, songwriter and later part of the British rock band, 10 cc. The soundtrack THINK IT is sometimes better to watch a film without has another song by The Yardbirds – Train Kept A Rollin’ – and having read any of the reviews. Had I read the reviews of on this one, Beck’s lead features again, in yet another innovative 2010’s British film, London Boulevard, I probably wouldn't way where he simulates the sound of the whistle of a railway have readily watched the film on DVD as I did recently. On engine at the beginning of the song. Metacritic, the film, a directorial debut of William Monahan, the London Boulevard’s soundtrack has more than The Yardbirds’ Oscar winning screenplay writer of Martin Scorsese’s The track to make it worth a watch (and a listen!). Some of it is also Departed, got a score of just 52, which is at best considered a more contemporary. British space-rockers, Kasabian, contribute middling rating. I was fortunate not to have scoured the Net three tracks. La Fee Verte, Club Foot and Underdog. But there are before watching the DVD because I liked the film. London Boulevard also some old songs. Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues makes is a British crime drama with an all-Brit cast: Colin Farrell, Keira SOUND INCUBATOR an appearance as do songs by The Pretty Things (aka Electric Knightley, Ray Winstone and David Thewlis (he played Remus From top: Beck, Page and Banana). If you haven’t tried The Pretty Things, they’re worth Lupin in the Harry Potter films). But it is a British film made by Clapton were a part of a a shot. R&B rockers and contemporaries of The Rolling Stones, an American director. band perceived as an The Pretty Things (many critics feel and I agree) have been London Boulevard’s plot is as improbable as you would expect innovative platform for underrated and not appreciated as much as they ought any British crime noir to throw at you. Farrell, a London guitarists who would go on to be. Lead singer Phil May and lead guitarist Dick criminal, gets out of jail and wants to tread the new to achieve global fame Taylor’s brand of music has been compared with the straight and narrow instead of the old crooked path; Stones’ sound but they’re not clones of their more he gets a job as handyman-cum-bodyguard of a famous compatriots. Come See Me, Street Girl and reclusive film star, played by Keira Knightley; and, It’ll Never Be Me are three tracks by the band on the yet, old criminal contacts resurface in his life, first soundtrack. And just in case, they remind you of the an old accomplice and, then, a crime boss, played Stones, the soundtrack also features Stray Cat Blues by the redoubtable Ray Winstone. Lots of violence, from Beggars Banquet. killing and gore ensue, making for a watchable 100 minutes or so. No matter what Metacritic says. To give feedback, stream or download the music mentioned in Yes, one may have been happier to see more of this column, go to Keira Knightley (she has hardly more than a token download-central, follow argus48 on Twitter presence in the film) and some more twists and turns in the plot but still it was watchable. Probably because MORE ON THE WEB of reasons that had nothing to do with the acting,


download central



I took to London Boulevard even before it began, because of the film’s soundtrack

MARCH 25, 2012



LOOK MA,NO W RES! Part 2 of my quest to make my home free of wires


HIS IS a strange column to write. I wrote part one a few weeks back and while part two was more or less done, all kinds of ‘breaking news’ type of things kept taking precedence. The other motivation to write this is also out of fear as the number of people that have asked whether they will ever get to read part two has been quite astounding. Some have asked quite sweetly, most have not. A quick recap is in order. This was a quest column. The challenge was simple: without using any over-the-top expensive or complicated equipment, could I, in a reasonable amount of time, get rid of most of the ugly wires attached to audio and video equipment in my house? Rules of engagement: the setup must be from scratch, should be easy to replicate and I should be able to do a start to finish in two hours. Could I achieve the ultimate tech nirvana and go completely wirefree? In 36 minutes, I had set up a Belkin router that was able to transmit into every dead space in my house and set up a Sonos Bridge and a Play:5 to transmit wireless music into my room. This is the story of the other 1 hour and 24 minutes.

Rajiv Makhni



The Belkin ScreenCast AV 4 is a double box unit with both the transmitter and the receiver smaller than your hand


Speakers on the Violet speaker system screw into a light bulb socket. With my setup, I got near-perfect surround sound

I plugged in a 2TB Western Digital My Book Essential USB drive into the back of the Belkin Router USB. This has almost all my music (Hi-Def FLAC format) multi-indexed in folders. The drive showed up immediately as a network drive on all devices that could access the Belkin router. From a laptop I was able to point the Sonos controller software to this drive and to the the right folder. Next I loaded the Sonos app on to four devices: an iPad 2, an iPhone 4, a Samsung Galaxy Note and a Huawei MediaPad Tablet. The next few minutes can be described in one word: heaven! With no computers or laptops, between the router, the WD drive and any one of these four devices in my hand, I was able to control music wirelessly from anywhere. Songs, genres, albums, cover art – all showed up perfectly. It took another few minutes to set up three more Sonos zones. From here I could chose which room should play which song or playlist, at what volume, chose an Internet radio station for one room and a music service for another. I could even set a playlist as an alarm by which the Sonos wakes you up by slowly increasing the volume. Total time taken: 55 minutes.


Now for the big one. I had to get a Blu-Ray player, a WD Live media streamer, A Tata Sky HD set-top box and a PlayStation 3 gaming console to attach and play with zero wires going into my TV. Zero! While it sounds like a formidable challenge and would have been an impossible dream a few years back, time and technology have changed. Enter the Belkin ScreenCast AV 4. This is a simple double box unit. The transmitter is about the size of my hand and the receiver much smaller. At the back of the transmitter are four HDMI-in ports. I placed the transmitter about 20 feet away from my TV and plugged in the MARCH 25, 2012


With a NAD VISO 1 dock, anybody could use their own phone and Tablets to wirelessly play their music



above mentioned devices one by one into these four HDMI ports. The next step was plugging in the small receiver box (it is small enough to be tucked away behind your TV) into one HDMI-in port of my TV. I then powered both the boxes up – they immediately recognised each other and synced – and that was it. With a remote, I could choose which of the four devices I wanted to watch. I switched from a Blu-Ray movie to a PS3 Game to HD transmission on the Tata Sky set-top box – and the ScreenCast didn’t miss a beat. The picture quality was awesome and despite switching from wireless to wired HDMI, not one person in my family could tell me which was which. This was beautiful and I still had 35 minutes on the clock.


Wireless speakers have been around but have been more a miss than a hit. Terrible sound and serious sync loss have plagued this category. People using wireless back speakers in a home theatre suffer surround sound delays to a level that can turn every movie into a sadistic joke. And the sound itself is horrible enough to make grown men cry. My quest was to go wireless 5.1 in one room and not compromise on sound at all. For this, my weapon of choice was a light bulb. Yes, Violet speakers that screw into a light bulb socket. No wires need to be run anywhere. I screwed the speakers in place, put the included microphone in the specified area and the system did the rest. It figured out the speaker placement (my two rear speakers weren’t at the same angle and height), the topography of the room (while this room is a perfect rectangle, it has an off-axis door) as well as the furniture location. I added a Sonos into the input of the Violet box, hit the play button – and got near-perfect surround sound! While the subwoofer didn’t totally knock my socks off, the sound was nothing short of amazing. Total time off the clock? 1 hour 53 minutes.


The last part was the chest thumper factor. To really show the potential of the all wireless installs, I wanted anybody walking into my house to be able to play music off their own phones or Tablets. This was simplicity in itself: an Apple TV device plugged into the input of the Sonos and a NAD VISO 1 dock. Anybody with an iOS device could immediately connect with the Apple TV and Airplay any song from their collection. For everyone else, the NAD with Bluetooth is a plug and play ticket to wireless heaven. The amount of bass that thing can pump out from a song on your phone is nothing short of a miracle. And thus I was done. In 2 hours and 14 minutes. Yes, 14 minutes off the quest timeline but in those 134 minutes, I had literally transformed my home from a jungle of cables and wires to a state-of-the-art wireless home. Just a few years back, this would have taken an army of professionals, a truckload of money and oodles of anger management classes. Man, I love technology! Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at




Bikram Saluja Film Actor

The coldest place I’ve been to has to be Ladakh. We were shooting for LOC Kargil in 2002-2003. Imagine being there in November and shooting in the open in simple ‘fauji vardi’. The temperature was easily around -3 or -4 C, and I don’t even drink, so keeping warm by drinking brandy was out of the question. I just layered with lots of clothes and kept moving to keep warm. Plus being out in the open, we had to face the bonechilling wind. It was probably one of the toughest shoots for me.”

Dipannita Sharma Atwal Model and Actress

“The coldest place I have been to was Davos in Switzerland. I had gone there to be a part of a fashion show at a financial conference. It was my first trip abroad during winter and I was truly excited to see the scenic beauty. What caught my eye was the snow... we were in a mini bus and when it stopped at a red light, I ran out into the snow, not realising how cold it would be. I sat on a tree stump covered with snow and instantly shot up, frozen. “I later realised that I was ill-prepared for the severe winter and had to wear a pair of jeans over another and layers of T-shirts under sweaters to keep warm. The other embarrassing event was when I slipped and fell several times on the sleet-covered streets as I went shopping.”

Below Freezing Point

Shibani Kashyap

Celebs tell us about the coldest place they’ve ever been to by Priyanka Jain

Mugdha Godse Film Actress

“I love to travel and have been to many places, but London’s one place I thoroughly enjoy. I visited it last in December and got back in January, and the weather was super cold. I was freezing to my bones, but that did not stop me from going out and shopping and eating. “At that time, London was almost -3 C, and it shook me up. I also toured the Lake and Peak districts where the weather conditions are a little worse than London. “I got back to London in the second week of January, and assumed that the weather would be better, but it was the first time that the city was facing such cold weather. Still, I enjoyed my visit and did a lot of things I love.”

Geeta Basra Film Actress

“Having been born and brought up in the United Kingdom, I am used to cold weather. But last winter, I visited my relatives in Austria, and went to this small town where people generally go skiing. “However, when we got there, the town was almost deserted because of the extreme conditions. We had planned to stay for a week, but had to return in two days because of the temperatures. For most of those two days I stayed indoors, wearing three sweaters, hand gloves and a muffler. Every time, I tried to speak, my teeth would chatter.”

Singer and Composer

“The coldest place I have ever been to is the Blue Mountains in Australia, a two to three hour drive from Sydney. It was already winter when I went there, the temperature was -3 C, and I was wearing three layers of warm clothes with gloves and a woollen cap. “We went to see the view from the top of a mountain. Although it was breathtaking, the instant it was over, I rushed to the nearest cafe and had some hot soup, which seemed like the best thing ever at that point of time. Also, despite the cold, I let my adventurous spirit lead me on a trek!”

Mukul Dev Film Actor

“The coldest place I’ve ever been to has been Darjeeling. It is one of my favourite places. The thrill in Darjeeling is to be able to glimpse the mountain peaks in the early morning from my hotel room window. “One would assume the weather would be pleasant here, but when I visited in February, the temperature went down to almost minus one degree. For someone from Mumbai, this was freezing!”

Celebs lounging by the poolside? Boring! Swap the pool with a water park – think of them hurtling down dizzy slides... MARCH 25, 2012






Can’t Make It To The Mountains?

Annapurna: The First 8,000-Metre Peak BY MAURICE HERZOG; VINTAGE CLASSICS; R820 Sneak Peak: In 1950, a group of French mountaineers made a dash for the peak of the Annapurna I, an 8,100-metre mountain that ranks among the most forbidding in the Himalayas, not just for its extreme height but also for its long and treacherous approach. They almost paid for it with their lives. Maurice Herzog tells the gripping tale of this remarkable journey from a hospital bed as he recovers from injuries sustained during this climb in what is one of the most famous mountaineering books of all time. Pick-Me-Up: We’re suckers for happy endings.

Then let these books whisk you away

by Pranav Dixit

Spies in the Himalayas: Secret Missions and Perilous Climbs

The Ascent of Rum Doodle BY W E BOWMAN; VINTAGE CLASSICS; R738 Sneak Peak: A misguided guide, a measurement-obsessed scientist, a kooky linguistic expert, a puffed-up protagonist and an indigenous tribe whose members speak through their stomachs via a series of indecipherable grunts. This is the motley crew that comes together in this 1956 mountaineering classic, an outrageously funny spoof about the ascent of a bumbling group of British mountaineers on Rum Doodle, a fictitious peak that is supposedly higher than Mount Everest itself. Does for mountaineering what Catch-22 did for the Second World War, according to many notable publications. Pick-Me-Up: The foreword by author Bill Bryson claiming it is “one of the funniest books” he’s ever read.

BY MS KOHLI AND KENNETH J CONBOY; HARPER COLLINS; R395 Sneak Peak: After the Chinese detonated their first nuclear test in 1964, both America and India, which had just fought a border war with China, were justifiably concerned. Due to the extreme remoteness of the Chinese testing ground, conventional surveillance in this pre-satellite era was impossible and the CIA was desperate for a peek behind the Bamboo Curtain. The solution: a joint American-Indian effort to plant a nuclear-powered sensing device on a high Himalayan peak to monitor Chinese military activity. Based on true events. Chilling. Pick-Me-Up: True story. Enough said.

The Big Walls: From the North Face of the Eiger to the South Face of Dhaulagiri BY REINHOLD MESSNER; MOUNTAINEER BOOKS; R1,817 Sneak Peak: You can’t talk about mountain books without mentioning Reinhold Messner, the legendary Italian adventurer renowned for making the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Messner is also the first climber to ascent all 14 ‘eight-thousanders’ (peaks over 8,000 metres above sea level). In this historical account of big wall climbing, Messner begins in 1860, with the Alpine walls and the challenges he faced when conquering some of the steepest summits in the world. Read and be inspired. Pick-Me-Up: Packed with over 165 powerful colour photos. That and Messner’s name on the cover.

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Great Detective in Tibet BY JAMYANG NORBU; HARPER COLLINS; R299 Sneak Peak: Two years after he killed off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, author Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected him on popular demand. On his comeback, Holmes informs a stunned Dr Watson: “I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa.” Norbu, an avid Doyle reader, investigates Holmes’ stay in Tibet and reveals Holmes in the thick of a nail-biting mystery set in a fascinating landscape that evokes the romance of Kipling’s India. Highly recommended. Pick-Me-Up: Without a doubt, the best Sherlock Holmes pastiche we’ve ever read.

Umbrellas can be trippy. No, seriously. Climb a mountain with one and down you go. Carry sunscreen instead. MARCH 25, 2012







OW WE think is influenced by many things – our habits and our subconscious ways of perception. We have read that we are influenced by several things in our consciousness, like values, belief systems, desires, training, etc., but how we end up thinking is a fine process, in which each aspect of our mind is acting in a way which we can call filters. Let’s take an example: we go to the mall and see a red handbag we like. This can be termed a trigger, a stimulus picked up by us through our eyes. Now, this information goes to our brain, and there it goes through the following filtration processes: FILTRATION PROCESS 1 This process begins from our deepest unconscious desires, which we are not aware of. These desires could be anything – one of them could be to look attractive, confident or glamorous. So the handbag’s colour and size may attract us because we unconsciously feel a sort of synergy with how the bag looks. At the same time, other women may see the bag but may pass it by

since according to their mindset the colour red is not their type. FILTRATION PROCESS 2 After the thought passes through the first filter, it may get modified – either increasing or decreasing in attraction. The next set of filters is values and belief systems. Our values and belief systems are the largest set of filters that dictate the direction and formation of thought, and while the first set of filters have intensity and strength, the second set of filters may not have the high intensity but have a very structured form, and these filters define the rules we set for ourselves. The values and belief systems could be: I need to look well turned out, so I deserve the bag; or conversely, I don’t need to waste money buying the bag as I should conserve my money. This is the level at which family or spouse pressure may be felt or not experienced

at all. So if we have a belief system that what my friends say is how I should behave, then my peers can influence me at this point. When the thought leaves filtration process 2, it has become structured in terms of going towards a decision, which may result in action or inaction. FILTRATION PROCESS 3 This is the mind filter we employ to understand the situation and measure it on our set of unique experiences and training. These are the personal experiences we’ve had and the inferences or outcomes we have created as a set of our understanding of the world. These experiences and their impact on our thinking begins young, so if financial prudence is what we were trained in, we may not buy the bag immediately. Conversely, if our habits make us an impulsive person, we may go with our habits. THE FOURTH FILTER This filter is very gentle but extremely persistent – it is the inner voice. This is the voice that kicks in when important decisions have to

Optimists see the best possibilities, pessimists see only problems be made, otherwise it stays silent. The feature of this inner voice is that it is a powerful one that is nonjudgmental. It never dies out; one can hear it very clearly when one is not thinking consciously (i.e. the problem solving thinking mode is silent at that time). The thought is accompanied by a sense of calm and immense courage. Since the inner voice is a very gentle voice, the only way to identify it is the accompanying immense sense of courage and calm confidence. We have the power to change our lives and shape it in the way we want. However this power is dependent upon knowing oneself and being aware of the way one has been thinking. Enterprising people see opportunity all the time, blamers see only lost opportunity. Optimists see the best possibilities at every point, pessimists see only problems. The list is endless… it depends on how we see the world.




The Problem with Single Parenting – A three-part series


The Uhh-Umm Moments

For single moms, joining the (married) ladies to swap horrifying kindergarten stories can get very awkward by Judy Balan


WAS WATCHING One Fine Day for the nth time the other day and kept thinking to myself – Thank God, my life is nothing like that. I mean, I get a lot of credit for being a single parent but on most days I don’t do anything that the average parent doesn’t – dragging a very reluctant five-year-old from bed, forcibly shoving glass of milk into her mouth, getting spat on all over, working out suitable bribes before carrying the offspring into the shower, being rudely asked why I don’t look “sweet like the mamma in the Pears soap ad” while I’m at it and banging head on wall several times during the day – you know, it’s therapeutic – while making mental calculations on how long it will be before she graduates. Like I was saying, regular parenting stuff. Sometimes, I look at married parents (mothers mostly), who end up doing all the work – and are in fact single parents in their own right but get no credit for it – because the spouse is usually either too busy boarding flights for earth-shattering meetings

or breaking young girls’ hearts – and I even sigh in relief that I don’t have to deal with that kind of stress. Then again, it’s not always that simple. Recently, I was at a birthday party where the moms had all congregated at the balcony – while the brats ran about smearing chocolate cake on each other’s faces. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know each other or had at best, just nodding acquaintance. We all knew what it was like raising kindergarteners and that was enough fodder for conversation. No one would have to feel

left out – or so I thought. The first round of conversation was easy – someone started a story about how she couldn’t keep up with her son’s antics and as tradition would have it, the rest of us one-upped that with our own stories – in turn, of course. And then, one mom did it – she started a thread on how the husband never does anything around the house – ‘The one day I ask him to pick her up from school!’ she started. A complaining round! How much fun!

Many married parents (mothers mostly) end up doing all the work, and are in fact single parents in their own right but get no credit for it

Except, what could I possibly add to it? I could spring my marital status on them at this point but it would make them all uncomfortable. I mean, one minute, everyone’s so engrossed complaining about husbands and then it would be my turn and I’d go ‘Uhh, actually, I’m divorced. So haha, I have nothing to complain about’ and suddenly, there’d be this moment. And even if they choose not to tch-tch me, I would completely ruin the flow and the next mom would have to start a whole new thread. It would be like Passing the Parcel and I’d be the girl with the parcel when the music stops. Mortifying. So I pulled the restroom card of course and slipped out of the scene. That night I decided I should get myself more mommy-friends – that way, they’d know about my single status from the start and there’d be no room for awkward social situations. Also, my world is split in two – I’m single but I’m also a parent. And while I have loads of single friends, I don’t have enough friends who are parents. And I believe all parents need this – it would be like a support group – we’d meet every week, discuss all our parentingrelated woes and go back home fully assured in the knowledge that we’re all in this mess together. On that note, I eagerly took off to the next kindergarten birthday bash – this time, it was a different set of kids and parents. I decided I will go early, make friends and you know, let everyone know about my single status so there’d be no room for uhhumm moments. But due to a series of annoying delays, I got there late. I was not going to let that get me down of course, so I reached the venue, dumped the offspring with the other brats and joined the ladies with my share of horrifying kindergarten stories – with the confidence that comes from knowing I had already dealt with the most awkward situation yet – when the mommy next to me started a new thread, Planning Baby #2. Uhh, umm. They don’t call it restroom for nothing. (The series is concluded) Judy Balan is the best-selling author of Two Fates —The Story Of My Divorce

Illustration: MALAY KARMAKAR

MARCH 25, 2012





Before or after I became the brand ambassador for blue jeans in India? Maybe, some 25 pairs



September 9


Schooling from Don Bosco, Delhi and graduation from Khalsa College, Delhi



HIGH POINT LOW POINT OF CURRENTLY DOING YOUR LIFE Shooting for Rowdy OF YOUR The day I realised I Rathore. Just finished LIFE

When my son FIRST BREAK Aarav said he I could break bricks with my hands when I wanted to fight just like me! was 12

had to live the rest of my life without my father by my side

running a quiz for my fans (on questions that I am sick of being asked by everyone) on Twitter


Dubai and Goa. I know I am lucky but it was a well deserved break


Mint chocolate chip. Like me, it is fresh on the outside but crunchy once you bite into it Photos: THINKSTOCK

The last line of your autobiography would read... ‘Why are you wasting time reading about my life when you should be out there living your own?’ Or, on second thoughts, it would be, ‘No matter how carefully we chose our words, they’ll end up being twisted by others. So read carefully.’ How would you explain Twitter to your grandmother? Grandma, don’t worry, Twitter has nothing to do with birds. The one place where you would never get yourself tattooed? Where the sun doesn’t shine!!! One song that describes your current state of mind? Not Afraid by Eminem. The greatest living rapper. What would we find in your fridge right now? Crates of Thums Up of course. MARCH 25, 2012

If a spaceship landed in your irrational no. But my dumbest backyard, what would you do? fear would be spinning in the Obviously, hijack it. After I magic tea cups. Who the hell crash land it, I would wants to pay to spin sell it on eBay at a around like a bent knockdown price. YOU WOULDN'T yoyo for laughs? The most clichéd answer The one lie you got away BE CAUGHT you’ve ever given in an DEAD WEARING with? interview? I once told someone Journalists ask me all I could act. They the time, “Akshay, do totally bought it. I’ve you believe in the been getting away numbers game?” My with it ever since. standard response: “I What’s the biggest can’t count, that’s why surprise you’ve given I have producers and your wife? accountants who A son more beautiful calculate for me. As than myself. Or, it long as I have them in my life, I could be the Bentley, but I don’t need to worry about think it’s a handsome son. I am numbers!” telling you I don’t think I am Your most irrational fear? ever going to be able to figure There’s absolutely nothing this one out. irrational about me, insane yes, — Interviewed by Rupali Dean

Would never go near a thong

Hindustantimes Brunch 25 March 2012  

Hindustantimes Brunch 25 March 2012